Preliminary round, Pool A, Day 5, Gold Coast Commonwealth Games 2018
With more beguiling brilliance, the Australian netball team pummelled Fiji on their home court, with starring roles from Kim Ravaillion and Susan Pettitt, the latter of which maintained her 100% record for the tournament. Fiji toughed it out with only two shooters available, experimenting with combinations and learning the hard way the pace required at this level of pressure. With a scoreline befitting their favourite status, the Diamonds hit 108, their second-highest ever score at a Commonwealth Games.
GS Caitlin Bassett (c)
GA Steph Wood
WA Liz Watson
C Kim Ravaillion
WD Gabi Simpson
GD April Brandley
GK Laura Geitz
Bench – Caitlin Thwaites, Steph Wood, Liz Watson, Jo Weston, Courtney Bruce
Coach – Lisa Alexander
GS Laisani Waqa
GA Maliana Rusivakula
WA Nina Cirikisuva
C Aliso Galo
WD Verenaisi Sawana
GD Episake Kahatoka
GK Alisi Naqiri
Bench – Unouna Rusivakula, Merelita Waqanidrola, Alanieta Waqainabete, Lusiani Rokoura (c)
Coach – Vicki Wilson
Umpires – Kristie Simpson (New Zealand), Angela Armstrong-Lush (New Zealand), Kate Stephenson (England) (reserve)
Australia opened with the intensity expected by their coach, irrespective of the apparent ease of the match-up with their Pacific neighbours. Brandley and Bruce took multiple clean intercepts from cross-court balls passed to retreating players, and Bassett and Wood found little challenge converting as Naqiri failed to switch to the front driving shooter time after time. In only six minutes, Australia lead 16-1.
Fiji’s defensive actions were singular in attempts and variety, whereas Australia constantly re-offered and anticipated in attack. Sawana was completely off the pace, not reading the play after the first phase, allowing Watson to take whatever space she wanted. There was no dictation of options by the Pearls backline. With captain Bassett sitting at 23 perfect goals, and the team incurring zero penalties, her Diamonds romped out to the biggest quarter score of the tournament, up by 32 goals to 7.
Needing to slow down the Diamonds juggernaut, former Australian captain Vicki Wilson changed her lineup radically, with captain Rokoura at wing defence, Waqa and Maliana Rusivakula swapping the shooting bibs, Waqainabete into centre, and Naqiri to goal defence with Waqanidrola at the back. Very early, Naqiri called an injury time for an unknown injury, suspicious of a calf or Achilles tear.
The circle defence for Fiji stepped up a gear, using faster feet and more hunger for the ball, slowing the Australian scoring rate to only 11 in the first half of the period. Bassett responded by looking more for the body, her superior height and reach on the hold making feeds quite open. Rusivakula showed her total commitment to maintaining possession by flying into the Diamonds bench and taking a short rest underneath a chair. She appeared to have suffered a minor injury to the knee as she scrambled for the ball.
The Aussies also threw out some sweet set plays in the closing three minutes, with clinical precision, having only five turnovers in the first half. The accuracy and close attempts of the shooters were reflected in the unbelievable statistic of 53 goal assists out of 55 goals. The green and gold girls hit the change rooms leading 55-15.
In their last chance to fight for starting seven positions before the big matches against Jamaica and the subsequent finals, the whole Australian bench was introduced, now with Thwaites at goal shooter, on to Pettitt, Robinson, Ravaillion, Brandley, Weston, and Geitz.
Fiji shuffled their defence slightly and persisted with Rusivakula at shooter, even though the injury in the second quarter was hampering her movement and landing. There followed a dismal third quarter for the Pearls, amassing only three goals, as Laura Geitz got close to a dozen possessions through rebounds, pickups, and clear intercepts. After each gain, the Aussies sailed down court relentlessly with no application to transition defence from Fiji.
Robinson reliably took every centre pass, demonstrating variety and the confident connection with Ravaillion. “Rav” in the mean time kept picking out just the right option, waiting that extra moment to see where the Fijian defence would commit, before the pass to the open teammate. Thwaites was available clearly and early, and Pettitt used lovely timing in the last few minutes to quickly pile on four goals from spectacular long feeds. Scoring 28 for the period, the Diamonds lead 81-18.
Coach Wilson kept trying to freshen up her players against the enslaught, with the shooters swapping, Galo back in the middle, and Kahatoka and In order to provide herself with more selection headaches, Lisa Alexander made a new backline for the fourth, Watson, Weston, Bruce, and Geitz. Weston immediately used her excellent reach at three feet to snaffle the ball off Cirikisuva. A hilarious reaction from the Australian bench followed Caitlin Thwaites’ first miss for the tournament.
A huge chant and buildup from the crowd was rewarded by Pettitt sinking the 100th goal for the Diamonds – she left the court after a solid 30 minutes with her fourth consecutive perfect shooting game. Courtney Bruce pointed out to the umpire that Rusivakula’s knee was bleeding through its bandage, and Cirikisuva slipped into goals for all of thirty seconds. Waqa used spectacular athleticism to take difficult balls, but the passes were too risky and lead to stepping or marginal out-of-court calls. At the end of another intimidating performance, Australia had triumphed by 85 goals
Australia 108 defeated Fiji 23
Caitlin Bassett 40/41 98%
Steph Wood 15/19 79%
Caitlin Thwaites 30/31 97%
Susan Pettitt 23/23 100%
Laisani Waqa 15/19 79%
Maliana Rusivakula 8/14 57%
Lisa Alexander, Australian coach
Whether or not she watched Malawi’s win over New Zealand yesterday
“I DID watch the second half. I try and keep away from the players before matches, only for my couple of things, and that was a good distraction. I’m really feeling for the New Zealand team, because they’re our great rivals. When you play each other so many times you kind of, they’re kind of like a frenemy, a silly word, but you DO feel for them and I know that all the coaching staff would be really hurting. Don’t write them off – the Kiwis know they could just come back and beat England. It’s a long tournament, it’s a marathon not a sprint.”
“I never discount New Zealand. They’ve got individually very skilful players. They’re probably just working on a few things with their team at the moment, they’ve got some young players they’re bringing in. They’ve got some teamwork issues, and they’ve had an injury to Kayla Cullen – that’s a big loss for them. I think they’ll come back pretty hard against England.”
On how she’s seeing the next clash, with Jamaica
“To be honest with you I don’t even look at the scoreboard, I know it sounds weird, but as long as we’re in front,… The whole thing is we’ve just gotta go out and do our job against Jamaica. Whatever happens in the other games, you can’t really compare them. They’ve mucked around with combiantions, we have with ours, so the scorelines don’t tell you much, other than we’ve got some terrific attacking and some terrific defensive work going on. Probably the defensive work I’m most interested in – who’s got the lowest scores against, that’s always very interesting for me. And we know that when we come up against Jamaica on Wednesday, it’s like a final. It’s the final of our pool, and it’s going to be a great game. Obviously we’ve played Romelda and Jhaniele many times, that’s our advantage I guess. But they’ve got great Jamaican flair and athleticism, and we’re going to have to be really on our best game to get a win in that one.
Does she look beyond individual stats to things like combinational effectiveness?
“Yes, I am! Definitely! It’s not that I don’t think it’s important. We do celebrate test caps. I think it’s an enormous achievement to play for your country for 50 or 100 tests, it’s just amazing. It means you’ve got that consistency of performance over many years. Prats (Susan Pettitt, 100% shooting) is going well! She’s been practising a LOT. I know what she’s been doing, and Julie Fitzgerald (Giants club coach) does too, and it’s a credit to her, and we’re really pleased for her. It’s just practise – she gets out there and practises at the post. It’s boring, and you know it’s very old-fashioned in many respects, but it actually works! You know, some other sports could take note of it, particularly AFL! Goal kicking! (My Hawthorne Hawks) missed JUST A FEW the other day…”
Lusiani Rokoura, Fiji Captain
“Bula Vinaka! … we are blessed with this opportunity to take on the Australian Diamonds. We tested some combinations, and I’m very proud of our young side, just grinding and working on more improvements for the next game.”
“We are happy with her confidence that she stepped up today. Some of our shooters (Alesi Paul and Unouna Rusivakula) are down at the moment. She did really a good job today. Unfortunately Alesi is out, but we have some things up our sleeve! So we’re hoping to continue with a good game.”
“Vicki has brought a lot of energy and happiness to be the best versions of ourself. For us individually, to contribute together to the unit. She’s helped us motivate in that sense. For me, getting more balls and reading off the space, which is very very essential for wing defence, who are the unsung heroes of the game (giggles), but yeah she’s been good!”
“We’ve gone through that disciplinary talk, and for us to improve individually on our conduct and behaviour, and helping the team to not cause any more of those. It’s up to the individual, but we’re working as a unit to just keep encouraging, and know when to run out and when not to run out.”
“I’m a quiet person, but I love to motivate these young ones, and for me it’s just a blessing to see them grow each day. We all make mistakes, being a leader is not easy, but I’m very proud of this team!”
Vicki Wilson, Fiji Coach
On the cautions, warnings, and suspensions that had been issued to their team recently
“Our game then demonstrated our ability to attack the ball. Today we didn’t have any issues (with warnings and suspension) that you spoke about. For me, that’s … what they did today, they played against a team that was very skilful and it allowed US to be skilful. I think you’ve got to weight that up. (Earlier in the week) we had a good look at the vision, and about the line of where they’re trying to attack. You’ve gotta remember, we’ve come into this, and this pace is just completely know, and so it’s about making decisions under fatigue. This pace is very fast for us.”
“South Africa again is again testing yourself against the best. They’re the fifth ranked team, and it’s just being able to find something to improve on. We need to be more visible on the court in attack, we tend to hide, and you’ve got to be able to punch forward onto the ball. I thought our use of the long ball opened up Australia a bit. Other teams might be watching and go “WHOA!”, that opens up space!””
“Alesi’s suffered a serious knee injury, and today we only had two goalers available. So Mali landed on her knee and cut on the bone. It swelled immediately, but it’s manageable. You’ve got to be able to back up in 24 hours. She played a full game, and sharing the load, because they’re both goal shooters, to run at goal attack is a big load against that pace.”