AUSTRALIA has won its first international silverware in two and a half years after securing the 2022 Quad Series. The Diamonds trailed hosts England at every break, but piled on 18 goals to five in the last quarter to produce one of the most clinical 15 minutes of netball fans could imagine. The Diamonds’ last term saw them run out 12-goal winners, 58-46, to celebrate their first trophy since the 2019 Constellation Cup, and retain their title as Quad Series champions. Gretel Bueta was named Player of the Match and Player of the Series after the game, with her role in the final nothing short of influential.
Australia made the somewhat surprising choice to leave out motivational midcourter Kate Moloney and defender Maddy Turner from the squad, instead opting for the in-form players of Jamie-Lee Price and Sunday Aryang, The Roses went full-strength for the final, with Eleanor Cardwell and Helen Housby earned the starting goal circle bibs, with Geva Mentor and Layla Guscoth up the other end against Bueta and Steph Wood.
Australia started the match with three consecutive goals to race to a 3-0 lead in the first two minutes, as Cardwell missed her first chance, and that would prove to be her sole miss of the half. Once England started to find their rhythm, they piled on seven goals to two over the next five minutes – six to Cardwell – for a 7-5 lead. For the last seven minutes, they went goal-for-goal as Cardwell’s prowess was on show, and that initial miss was the only one of the quarter for either side. That burst of scoring helped England take a 14-12 lead into the first break.
Cardwell finished with 10 goals from 11 attempts, and also picked up a rebound, with Housby scoring four goals from four attempts. The dominant player of the opening term was Natalie Metcalf, with the wing attack producing seven goal assists from eight feeds, working well with Serena Guthrie (three from five) in the midcourt. For the Diamonds, Bueta had nailed all eight of her goals, whilst Wood scored four from four and had a team-high five goal assists. Liz Watson was busy with four goal assists and an intercept. Cardwell was frustrating Bruce who committed seven penalties – four more than any other player.
Given that, Stacey Marinkovich opted to give Bruce a rest and bring on Sarah Klau to try and nullify Cardwell. The Aussies managed to cut the deficit back to one early in the term, with Wood missing her first in between a couple of goals. The intensity was lifting as both sides were not giving an inch. Cardwell’s ability to get to the right spot and hold her position, as well as work well with Housby was telling. In the 13th minute, England scored three consecutive goals to go up by five, before Australia returned serve through Bueta to go back to two, which ended up being the final difference once again, 25-17.
Cardwell shot 10 goals from 10 attempts to bring up her 20 goals in a half, whilst Guthrie (five goal assists) and Metcalf (four) were right on top. Guscoth was just as impressive in defence with an intercept in that quarter, but both Wood and Bueta were working well with 13 goals from 15 attempts between them,. Guthrie was on top of Paige Hadley in centre, but Watson was doing well in wing attack with four goal assists.
The only two changes to be made in the second half were Bruce coming back on for Jo Weston, and Cardwell and Housby swapping bibs. The third quarter was red-hot, with Austalia capitalising off a couple of England turnovers, with Bueta firing on all cylinders. After the sides went goal-for-goal in the opening two and a half minutes, Australia scored seven of the next nine goals to go from 28-31 down to 35-33 up.
Then, as if in a blink of an eye, England returned serve and scored three consecutive goals, with Cardwell’s accuracy remarkable for the Roses. At that moment, Jess Thirlby made a chance with Guthrie going back to wing defence to try and nullify Watson’s feeds and apply pressure to the Diamond, and give Cobden a rest, with youngster Laura Malcolm coming on in centre.
England managed to defensively hold up Australia from levelling in the final 30 seconds of the match with a full court defence, and eventually forced the turnover with Mentor grabbing the intercept and the Roses winding down the clock. The Diamonds had managed to cut the deficit back to one with a 15-14 quarter. Bueta had nailed all 12 of her attempts, whilst Wood had scored three from three and produced 10 goal assists from 12 feeds. Cardwell’s starring role continued with nine from nine attempts, Housby had five from six, whilst Malcolm produced five goal assists from her first five Feeds on court.
The Roses remained the same on court for the fourth quarter, with Bruce again coming off and Weston returning fresh for the final term. At 42-41 up, Cardwell produced just her second miss of the match with Weston pulling down a rebound. Racing it up the other end, Bueta made no mistake to level the scores and then put the Diamonds one goal up, Another turnover from the English immediately had the Aussies up and about, but it was fleeting with a pass into the circle not connecting and England winning it back. That too was fleeting with Malcolm finding herself off balance and the Diamonds won the ball back.
In the first four minutes, Australia had scored five goals to one and had opened up its equal largest lead of the game with three, 45-42. The Diamonds grabbed another turnover with Malcom committing her second, and Austarlia was right out to a four-goal lead and had the ball. The Roses – having scored just two goals and conceded seven, opted for change. Eboni Usoro-Brown replaced mentor at goal keeper, while George Fisher replaced Cardwell. Unfortunately Fisher’s first shot fell short, and Australia raced down the other end and Bueta applied the first nail in the coffin.
Australia was happy to maintain possession with short passes as it had all game, and with back-to-back Bueta goals, the Diamonds brought up the half-century with a 50-43 lead. England was in disarray having only scored two goal in the first eight and a half minutes, and then Housby missed her chance with the nerves and pressure red-hot across the court. Just as England earned a turnover off an errant Australian pass, Guscoth went to pass through to Cobden and Wood came through silently and swifty to win it back and with two more goals on the board moments later, Australia had sealed the win.
Fisher scored her first goal of the final at the 10 and a half minute mark, as well as England’s second in 10 minutes, but it was too little, too late, with the Diamonds so clinical across the court. They had the time to just pass around and pick the right options, and they did just that. The time wound down and the Diamonds did exactly as they had to, running out the match and capitalising off yet another Roses miss and the final whistle blew with the score at 58-46. Australia had piled on 18 goals to five in a remarkable turnaround.
Bueta had scored from all her 14 goals, whilst Wood nailed all her four attempts. Watson was on top with eight goal assists from 12 feeds, whilst up the other end, Klau (two gains, one intercept and one rebound) and Weston (three gains, two rebounds) both influential against the Roses shooters. England’s shooting success went to water in the final term, with Cardwell (one from two in six minutes), Housby (two from three in the full quarter) and Fisher (two from four in eight minutes) were not as steady. Metcalf still tried hard with three goal assists through midcourt.
CLOSING THOUGHTS …
Bueta won Player of the Match and Player of the Series by piling on 41 in 42 goals in the match to be the standout shooter across all four quarters. Wood supported her brilliantly wiht 24 goal assists from 27 feeds, also picking up that crucial last quarter intercept and scoring 17 of 18 herself. Watson picked up the 21 goal assists and an intercept, whilst Weston and Klau were strong as a combination in defence.
Cardwell scored 30 goals from 32 attempts, whilst Housby recorded 14 from 16. Metcalf (17 goal assists from 25 feeds) and Guthrie (10 from 16) were both influential in midcourt, whilst Guscoth (two intercepts and three gains) was the pick of the defenders. As a whole the Roses go home empty handed but can go away knowing they pushed Australia for three quarters.
Upon accepting her Player of the Match and Player of the Series awards, Bueta said she was not entirely sure what happened in the final quarter, but she was thrilled it did.
“We know every time we come up every quarter against England is a must-win,” she said. “They’re an exceptional side, so many key players and structures on their defensive end especially. “I’m not too sure, I’m just really proud of the girls.”
GK: Eleanor Cardwell
GD: Helen Housby
WA: Natalie Metcalf
C: Serena Guthrie
WD: Beth Cobden
GD: Layla Guscoth
GK: Geva Mentor
GS: Gretel Bueta
GA: Steph Wood
WA: Liz Watson
C: Paige Hadley
WD: Ash Brazill
GD: Jo Weston
GK: Courtney Bruce