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The Roar

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Constellation Cup: Release the giant wing attack!

Sharni Layton is calling it a career. (AAP Image/Paul Miller)
Expert
23rd October, 2015
7
1212 Reads

After a horrifying 48 hours without netball, our Diamonds were back on court, looking to crush New Zealand’s spirit beyond repair.

The Australians had the aim of obliterating them from netball completely so the powers that be might let us play someone else for a change.

But the Silver Ferns that took the court at the start of the match looked to be the real deal, with that never-say-die attitude and the ability to create turnovers from anywhere that’s made them so formidable in the past.

We can only guess where their fear factor has been hiding for the past couple of years, but perhaps Bailey Mes found it underneath the team bench at Vector Arena before the game.

The Diamonds started to look uneasy and seemed to just be holding on and waiting for a Silver Ferns mistake, looking more and more wary as it didn’t come. They took a narrow 14-13 lead and the sense of a disruption to the space-time continuum into quarter time.

On rolled the second quarter and New Zealand really started to put the foot down, with their legendary zone looking fierce and ferocious and much less like a group of newborn kittens chasing a ball of yarn around the court. Despite looking like they had never seen an effective zone before (and in their defence, it has been a while) the Australians managed to hold on and go into the half-time break with the scores locked at 27-all.

With both coaches unsatisfied to be level with that other bunch of losers, they made significant changes. Silver Ferns coach Wai Taumaunu benched her captain Casey Kopua and brought youngster Phoenix Karaka and oldster Leana de Bruin into the defensive end.

Lisa Alexander also chose to make changes in defence, pulling out her ‘Quick Unpick’ to get the goal defence bib off Sharni Layton after she’d sewn it on to her dress, shifting Clare McMeniman there and bringing on Gabi Simpson for her second Test cap in wing defence.

The Ferns’ changes seemed to be the more effective of the two, with the Kiwis pulling ahead, thanks to some intense defence in the circle and accurate shooting. When Diamonds wing attack Paige Hadley called a time out, Lisa Alexander played a quick game of ‘pin the bib on the benchie’ and ended up with 191-centimetre Gretel Tippett on in wing attack, a position usually dominated by the injured 168-centimetre Madison Robinson.

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Big call, Lisa.

However, like everything Lisa Alexander touches, Gretel Tippett turned to gold. Where the Diamonds had seemed cramped by fear and hesitation, Tippett played like she’d never even heard of the Silver Ferns and thought this was just a practice game against the local C Grade team. To be fair, she towered so far above them, she may not have even noticed there was an opposition.

The injection of the fearless giant allowed Natalie Medhurst to go about her business making magic happen in the goal circle and just effortlessly being the second most* amazing person to ever step on a netball court. With that, the Diamonds cruised into a 43-40 lead going into the final break.

The fourth quarter started tightly enough and you’d not have been crazy to think we might have a game on our hands here. But, as it usually does, the superior fitness of the Diamonds kept on pushing that score up and up. At one end, Caitlin Bassett was scoring goals as quickly as she acquires bunny rabbits in her house and Laura Geitz was building a brick wall around the goal circle at the other.

Despite the fact that the game felt a lot closer and more intense than the last, the score blew out to a 10-goal margin, the Diamonds getting up 58-48, after winning the fourth quarter by seven goals.

The Silver Ferns now have no hope of winning the Constellation Cup, with two games remaining and the Diamonds currently holding the trophy. However, cruelly, we will still force them to come over here and play two more fruitless games. At least they’ll get to swim in our beautiful beaches and spend time in our glorious weather. Oh no, wait – they’re off to Melbourne.

They just can’t seem to catch a break, can they?

*As discussed ad nauseam during the Netball World Cup, the most amazing person to ever step on a netball court is Sharelle McMahon.

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