Diamonds sparkle in 14-goal win over Silver Ferns
CROSS-code star Ash Brazill has shone as brightly as the Diamonds during their 14-goal win over the Silver Ferns at the 2022 Quad Series. The reigning Quad Series champions started off on the perfect note with 47 goals to 29 in the opening three quarters before winning 53-39. Brazill won Player of the Match, whilst the shooting combination of Gretel Bueta and Steph Wood also shone in the win.
Australia headed into its first match in England for two years with a reliable combination, but only Kate Moloney missing from the starting seven. Returning from giving birth to her first child, Gretel Bueta joined Steph Wood – who missed the most recent Constellation Cup – whilst Brazill was back in the green and gold at wing defence, and Paige Hadley started at centre. The Silver Ferns started Tiana Metuarau at goal attack with Maia Wilson, as they pondered a series without Ameliaranne Ekenasio, whilst Kayla Johnson also returned to the side, coming in at wing attack.
Australia brought the intensity from early on, with Wood scoring the opening goal of the match, and whilst Tiana Metuarau managed to respond for the Silver Ferns, the combination of Bueta and Wood piled on five consecutive goals to race out to a 6-1 lead. That lead was mostly maintained throughout the first term, until a flurry of goals late put the advantage out to seven, and the quarter time score read 17-10. The shooting combination of Wood (nine goals from nine attempts) and Bueta (eight from eight) was more potent than Metuarau (six from nine) and Wilson (four from four).
Though Samantha Winders was working hard in centre with four assists from eight feeds, and the defensive duo of Karin Burger and Johnson had both picked up a gain and an intercept, the Silver Ferns were not able to stem the Diamonds scoring power. Liz Watson was phenomenal in wing attack, picking up 10 assists from 15 feeds, whilst Brazill hardly missed a beat in the defensive half, with two gains and two intercepts. Though the penalties and turnovers were relatively even, it was Australia’s ability to maintain possession of het ball (54 to 46 per cent) and feed into the reliable shooters. The ability for both of the Diamonds shooters to nail goals from long-range helped immensely.
Australia maintained its possessional dominance in the second term, with 56-44 per cent of time with the ball. They had 10 less penalties, as the Silver Ferns started to feel the pressure. Though the shooting was better from New Zealand, the Silver Ferns could not conquer a red-hot offensive Diamonds side. Bueta scored another 10 goals from 10 attempts to make it 18 from 18 at the half, whilst Wood scored three from five, but provided six assists from seven feeds. Hadley was looking comfortable with five assists from seven feeds.
Throughout the term the Silver Ferns made a number of changes, with Metuarau subbed off and Grace Nweke (three goals from four attempts) coming on five minutes into the quarter. Wilson (seven from seven) was moved to goal attack, whilst up the other end, Claire Kersten came on for Johnson in wing defence. Johnson only had a three-minute breather before replacing Burger at goal defence, showcasing her versatility. The Diamonds were yet to make a change to half-time, with just two turnovers and 11 penalties (compared to four and 21 of the Silver Ferns) in the second quarter.
Heading into the third term, Kelly Jury came on at goal keeper for Sulu Fitzpatrick to mix up the defensive goal circle, whilst Shannon Saunders replaced Gina Crampton at wing attack. Unfortunately for the Silver Ferns, the changes did not quite pan out, with both Nweke and Wilson missing chances in the first four minutes, and Australia piling on seven goals before New Zealand scored through Wilson 4:40 into the term. By that stage, Australia was out to a 16-goal lead and the game was looking done and dusted without a miracle. To the Silver Ferns credit, they staged a mini-comeback courtesy of a turnover midway through the term to cut the deficit back to 13 goals with Wilson moving back to goal shooter, on fire.
The momentum did not last long however, with the score at 28-41 – only four goals worse than the half-time margin – as the Diamonds put the foot down in the final four and a half minutes. Bueta scored four goals and Wood two, as Australia blew the lead out to 18 goals, 47-29 by the final break. With 61 per cent of time in possession, it was a dominant performance, and one that ultimately sealed the result. The Diamonds scored 17 goals to eight that quarter, with Bueta yet again not able to miss (10 goals from 10 attempts), whilst Wood contributed seven from eight. Brazill and her defensive counterparts Jo Weston and Courtney Bruce were outstanding, as Hadley continued her strong game with four assists from nine feeds. By contrast, Wilson did all the heavy lifting with seven goals from eight attempts, with the Silver Ferns unable to capitalise from feeds.
With the game in the bag, Diamonds coach Stacey Marinkovich rang about the changes with three players entering the court at the final break. Sarah Klau came on at goal keeper with Bruce moving to goal defence and Weston earning a break, whilst Jamie-Lee Price replaced Hadley and Cara Koenen took up goal shooter, with Bueta moved to goal attack and Wood coming off. Burger also came on for Winders, with Kersen slotting in at centre and Burger back at wing defence.
The wholesale changes clearly had an impact on the Australian’s cohesiveness early, as the Silver Ferns scored six goals to two to start the term and immediately cut it back to a 14-goal deficit. Australia steadied more as the term went on, even stringing together three consecutive goals. Though both sides missed more than in previous quarters (Silver Ferns 10 from 13, Diamonds six from nine), there was still plenty to take from it. Wilson scored six goals from seven attempts and Metuarau had the four from six, whilst Kersten provided four goal assists from eight feeds.
Price looked strong in centre and Klau picked up a big intercept to go with four gains in an impressive term, with the quarter being the only one that the Silver Ferns took control. Johnson, Jury and Burger looked far stronger against the shuffled Diamonds attack, helping the Silver Ferns pick up four intercepts and seven gains against the Diamonds’ one and five. With a few minutes left, NSW Swifts defender Maddy Turner replaced Bruce at goal defence to join her partner-in-crime Klau in the defensive goal circle. IN the end, though the Silver Ferns had won the quarter 10-6, the Diamonds won the match 53-39.
CLOSING THOUGHTS …
Brazill had a sensational start to the game and was consistent throughout, with three intercepts and three gains, but stifling the Silver Ferns attack. Bueta returned as if she had barely missed any netball, scoring 31 goals from 33 attemtps, teaming well with Wood (19 from 22). Wood also provided an equal team-high 15 goal assists, whilst Watson ahd 15 assists though three turnovers, with Klau staking her case for more court time in the future. Bruce and Weston formed an unbelievable defensive dup, whilst Hadley stood up in the absence of Moloney.
For the Silver Ferns, Wilson tried hard with 24 goals from 26 assists, whilst Johnson (three intercepts and three gains) did well on Watson at wing defence. Burger (two intercepts, three gains) and Jury (one intercept, four gains) also stood up under fierce pressure. In the end it was a lack of comparative possession and capitalising off feeds with the Silver Ferns shooting at 79.6 per cent compared to the Diamonds’ 89.8 per cent.
The Diamonds set their sights on the SPAR Proteas in the second match of the series, whilst the Silver Ferns lock horns with a red-hot England outfit.
GS: Gretel Bueta
GA: Steph Wood
WA: Liz Watson
C: Paige Hadley
WD: Ash Brazill
GD: Jo Weston
GK: Courtney Bruce
New Zealand Silver Ferns:
GS: Maia Wilson
GA: Tiana Metuarau
WA: Gina Crampton
C: Sam Winders
WD: Kayla Johnson
GD: Karin Burger
GK: Sulu Fitzpatrick
Player of the Match: Ash Brazill (Australia)