Diamonds ready to sparkle at Quad Series
RETURNING to the international court for the first time in almost 12 months, the Australian Diamonds are up for the challenge. Still maintaining their world number one status, the Diamonds will lock horns against the Silver Ferns, Roses and SPAR Proteas over the next week to determine the 2022 Quad Series winner.
Held at the Copper Box Arena in London, the Diamonds will first clash with the Silver Ferns, then meet the SPAR Proteas 24 hours later, before a day’s rest and concluding the round robin stage against England. With the exception of New Zealand who the Aussies managed to get a Constellation Cup series in with last year, it has been more than two years since they faced off against the other two nations.
They last took on South Africa at the 2019 Netball World Cup, where they won a thrilling semi-final by two goals, only to go down to New Zealand by a goal in the final. Since then they have triumphed in the Constellation Cup against the Silver Ferns, before losing to the Ferns in the most recent series between the pair. In short, the last nine international matches for the Diamonds have come against the Silver Ferns.
Despite this fact, Diamonds coach Stacey Marinkovich knows they will be a very different unit at the 2022 Quad Series with the return of new mothers, Kayla Johnson and Phoenix Karaka. The new coach said she could not have higher praise for those who return to the court after having children, having seen the determination in one of her own star’s journey with Gretel Bueta back in the green and gold after having her first child.
“The Silver Ferns I think they’ve got a different dynamic going over in this series compared to what they’ve had in their last internationals,” Marinkovich said. “They’ve brought back some players, as we’ve mentioned with Kayla, with Phoenix, and they’re young mums, so I think any time even working with Gretel is there’s just a new found energy to be able to come back and represent as well as having been a mum at the same time.
“People cherish this opportunity, and I think that’s something within the Diamonds, it’s certainly become a strong reality, is that you can’t play international netball at the drop of a hat anymore, so when you get this uniform, when you’re stepping out, when you’re going to hear the anthem, all those types of things, it’s an absolute privilege, and I think that’s where the emotion and the passion for this competition is going to be higher then probably what it has been before because you haven’t seen these teams in the one arena for a considerable amount of time.”
It will have been almost three years to the day since Australia last faced England in an international match, with the 2019 Quad Series triumph the most recent contest between the heavyweight nations. The Roses are a very different group to that one they overcame then, with more experience and depth than every before.
“I think when you look at the England squad there’s a lot of experience and maturity across that group, and certainly while they haven’t had a lot of time together for a period of time, they’ve certainly had a quite a compact reunited group coming together,” Marinkovich. I think they’re going to be extremely strong, I think they’re being led very well and they way they are trying to play the game.”
Marinkovich said she felt the experienced that Roses players took from the Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) would help them against her side. But also pointed out it worked vice-versa, too.
“I think they’re really taking on board the way in which the Australian way, plays in the SSN but I also think they continue to add their flavour to the game which makes them a threat because of what they can put out there in terms of their versatility, but that’s what we’re there for, to actually see what that looks like,” she said.
“On the flip side, our players are very well attuned to knowing a large part of their squad because they have played in the Australian competition, so there will be some real battles out there because there will be a lot of familiarity and it’s that ability of who’s going to connect and be able to cope with the key moments out on court.”
Focusing on the Diamonds squad as a whole, there are two potential debutants amongst the 15-players squad in Sophie Dwyer and Sunday Aryang. But the key to winning the series would be communication between the group, with other less experienced players and a new shooting goal circle to contend with in the tournament.
“I think just our ability and our work rate when we’re out on court,” Marinkovich said. “I think the intent in what we’re trying to execute I think is front of mind of all the players and I think there’s a real strong focus just around getting the connection piece out on court. “I think for us if we can get that understanding of each other, get that communication, getting our ability to respond to different moments together, I think that can be a really strong attribute of this team. “