Midcourter Kelsey Browne has been hailed for a momentum-swinging Test debut as Australia pulled away from South Africa to win their Quad Series opener 61-44 in Auckland.
Struggling for rhythm throughout the first half, the world champion Diamonds came alive after the main break to motor clear of their fifth-ranked opponents.
It was the win and, eventually, performance that coach Lisa Alexander was after in their first match since losing the Commonwealth Games final to England in April.
Alexander started with the same seven players who were on court for the dramatic last quarter of the final heartbreak on the Gold Coast.
However, they didn’t respond.
Trailing early in both opening quarters and struggling for coherency, the Diamonds eked out a 28-24 halftime lead against their committed foe.
The pace picked up in the third stanza, mainly through the introduction of Browne, the younger sister of retired Diamonds midcourter Madi Robinson.
The 26-year-old brought energy and invention as Australia powered 46-32 clear with a quarter to play, silencing a Kiwi crowd which had earlier sensed an upset.
The performance of diminutive wing attack Brown in place of Liz Watson was an eye-opener for Alexander.
“We just needed a little bit more speed up in the attack third and Kelsey provided that,” she said.
“I loved that nice drive and cut to the circle edge. It just provided different timing for our attack end to work with.”
Captain Caitlin Bassett and fellow-shooter Stephanie Wood are teammates of Brown at the Super Netball champion Sunshine Coast Lightning.
Bassett said the trio’s two-year domestic combination proved vital.
“Kelsey’s an exciting player, she’s got x-factor and speed to burn and her change of direction is fantastic.
“It changed our timing on attack. It was a great outing for her first cap.”
Bassett was as classy as ever at goal shoot, landing 31 from 34 before exiting as Alexander made multiple changes in the final quarter.
Australian wing defence Gabi Simpson played the whole game, along with goal keep Courtney Bruce, who impressed with eight deflections and four rebounds, narrowly winning a furious battle with impressive Proteas goal attack Lenize Potgieter.
Alexander was pleased with the overall performance and wasn’t surprised they needed to “clear some cobwebs” in the first half.
They’ll be better for the outing when they meet England in the Games final rematch in Newcastle on Wednesday, she said.
South African coach Norma Plummer was missing some key midcourt personnel, forcing her to hand debuts to starting centre Khanyisa Chawane and second-half substitution Jessica Khomo.
The second match on Saturday was to pit world No.2 England against third-ranked New Zealand.