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The Roar

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Constellation Cup: Losing the battle, winning the war

Australia and New Zealand: Netball's two heavyweights clashed have clashed in the Constellation Cup. (Photo: SNPA / Ross Setford)
Expert
31st October, 2015
7

Well, as I’ve said all along, the Silver Ferns are clearly the dominant force in world netball.

The Diamonds – the plucky bunch of underdogs that they are – managed to hold on to heroically only lose by 11 goals and thus retain the Constellation Cup.

The game started where the last one left off – but thankfully for the Diamonds’ the score was reset to 0-0 – and the Ferns were playing like a team with something to prove. Apparently coach Wai Taumaunu gave them a really hard calculus problem in the change rooms before the game.

The Diamonds, on the other hand, were playing like a group of work colleagues who thought they might enter their local social competition, but no one really knows how to play wing attack and a couple of people can play defence but they’d prefer not to unless they really have to.

Eventually the Australians got their act together and managed to stop throwing the ball to the players in black dresses long enough to score a few goals and go into the quarter time break trailing by just one goal.

The second quarter remained tight, but every time the Diamonds looked to pull ahead, Laura Langman popped up out of a hole in the ground and took an intercept. Unfortunately Perth hasn’t hosted an international netball game in a while and neglected to realise that an elaborate tunnel system accessed through holes in the court is not exactly a core part of the game.

Towards the end of the quarter, the Diamonds started to find their confidence and put on a late flurry of goals – including a slow motion lay up from goal shooter Caitlin Bassett – to go into half-time drawn at 26-all.

During the main break, the Silver Ferns performed their obligatory ‘Changing of the goal defences’ ceremony, which delayed the game a bit, as Katrina Grant insisted on the full band accompanying her as she marched into the stadium.

The Diamonds – recognising that their attack end was looking a bit stunted and hesitant – naturally changed their Goal Defences over, with Clare McMeniman coming on for Sharni Layton. After two minutes, they noticed that the defensive change had failed to make any impact in generating a more fluid attack and decided to try the unorthodox strategy of making an attacking change to solve an attacking problem, with Gretel Tippett replacing Paige Hadley in Wing Attack.

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Alas, it still made little difference, as Silver Ferns goal attack Jodi Brown was waltzing around like she owned the city – who does she think she is, anyway? Gina Rinehart? And Laura Langman was infuriatingly getting better and better at mastering that damn tunnel system. The New Zealanders danced their way into three-quarter time leading by nine goals.

During the final break, coach Lisa Alexander was overheard telling her troops about a time when she was coaching a team that was down by ten goals and still won. To which they all said, “Yeah, great story Lisa, but in case you haven’t noticed, we’re in the middle of a netball game right now. Got anything to say about that?”

And so the aim of the game changed from “trying to win” to “trying not to lose by 14 goals.” Easier said than done. Laura Geitz was seen surreptitiously checking Bailey Mes’ shoes for some kind of spring device whenever the ball was down the other end of the court (which was not that often, so she had to be pretty quick). Mes and Brown took to missing their first shots on purpose after a while, just to see how much they could torment Geitz and Layton by refusing to let them get a single rebound.

At the other end of the court, Erin Bell made her first appearance at goal attack for the series, with the hope that the umpires could be fooled into thinking her signature long shots were worth three points.

With the series looking in doubt, the Diamonds managed to steady and get the ball into Bassett’s hands enough times to ensure they only lost by 11, creating the odd situation where the game ended with all 24 players looking like their puppies had run away.

The Diamonds were awarded the series trophy and tried to make their faces into expressions that looked vaguely celebratory while flutter fetti rained on them from above, numbing their pain as they soaked up the relief of the netball season finally, finally being over.

And so, with all this being over, at least we can take heart from the fact that every time Trans-Tasman netball and rugby matches have been played on the same weekend in 2015, the loser of the netball game has won the rugby. You’re welcome Wallabies.

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