Diamonds take first win of Contellation Cup

GAME one goes to the Australian Diamonds thanks to an attacking masterclass, helping them defeat the Silver Ferns and come out 10-goal (50-40) victors in Melbourne.

Right out of the blocks, Australia forced a turnover with Jo Weston drawing first blood and stealing an early goal down the other end under the post. The score continued back and forth the remainder of the quarter as Australia never dropped its lead at any time in the match, and took the first quarter by two.

Newly appointed Diamonds vice-captain Paige Hadley took a heavy fall closing out the first term in what became a highly debated call on social media. There was an infringement away from play, Hadley was driving into the pocket then stopped hearing the whistle, but Maddy Gordon (24 feeds, 13 goal assists, two deflections) continued to challenge in the air after possibly not hearing the whistle and landed on Hadley’s back sending them both to the ground.

Hadley clutched at her knee, forcing Kate Moloney (12 feeds, two pickups) to enter the game, but Hadley was confirmed to be okay later in the match.

New Zealand was in desperate need of help in the attacking third, struggling to get the ball into its shooting circle. Ameliaranne Ekenasio (17 goals, 12 feeds) had to always release the pressure and pick up the shooting load as they were struggling to find fellow shooter Amelia Walmsley (21 goals, two rebounds) under the post.

Ekenasio’s timing has always been great, and she continued that form last night unafraid to slot the goals from anywhere and be that constant cog and leader in attack.

Gordon’s feeds were working for the Silver Ferns as they were accurate and were able to get to Walmsley to put her in a good shooting position. 

The Diamonds took the second quarter and ran with it winning by seven goals that term. Again, an eleven shooting load continued to turn the Silver Ferns heads, unsure of who the target was. 

Fairly new starting shooting combination for the Diamonds Cara Koenen (27 goals, three rebounds) and Kiera Austin (22 goals, 10 goal assists) continued their fine form they had no trouble at all getting the ball as they played like they have played together for several years.The Diamonds were quick as anything on their transition through court and there were always two options to the ball on every play.

The Diamonds took a handy nine-goal lead at half time.

A repeat of sport in Australia nowadays, the lights went out in John Cain Arena twice, leaving everyone in the arena with a fuzzled and disappointed look on their face. The backup generator quickly came on and the game continued as normal. Umpire Gary Burgess showed his experience in that moment, knew exactly what to do and kept calm throughout the situation. 

Karin Burger’s (three intercepts) injection to the game was well needed as Austin was able to run anywhere she wanted previously. Burger stuck very tightly on the player and contested a lot of ball both in the air and the ground ball. 

Player of the Match Courtney Bruce (eight deflections, three intercepts) played a phenomenal game in both defensive positions by intimidating the space, getting plenty of hand to ball and using her footwork to confuse the space on the feed. She also did a mountain of work in attack in the last quarter in goal defence, helping the Diamonds penetrate their attacking third.

Sunday Aryang’s injection into the defensive end brought a different game strategy. She stayed off the body, forcing the attackers high, and used her strong arms over pressure to block off the vision into the circle and entered the game with immediate impact getting two intercepts. Her combination with Bruce is one of the best in the current Diamonds outfit.

Australia never looked like it was going to drop the lead and had a very consistent outing eleven with New Zealand fighting back on multiple occasions, but it was just unable to peg back the game high of a 10-goal lead. Australia took the first win of the Constellation Cup and will face off again on Sunday in Brisbane.

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