The Diamonds have started slowly in each of their matches this tournament, and today was no exception. They opened in a scrambling manner, with some early passes from Kelsey Browne lacking weight and barely reaching their target. Caitlin Bassett was a strong presence under the post although well covered by opponent Shonette Azore-Bruce who managed to get fingertips to the occasional ball.
Steph Wood was industrious early, opening up space, putting up goals and picking off two intercepts along the way. At times however, the Australian midcourt was guilty of playing too laterally, with a number of cross court passes being used to bypass the Bajan defence.
Coach Lisa Alexander decided to experiment with a powerfully built back three of Courtney Bruce (189cm), Sarah Klau (190cm) and Jo Weston (188cm). It may have been new, but the combination was so impressive it was easy to throw down the pen and watch the spectacle unfold.
The Australians played off the body, alternating into a box defence and a variation of a wall defence. Very few balls slipped past them, with Barbados recording just five and then two goals in the first two quarters. Seven intercepts, 16 deflections later and 31 Bajan turnovers later, it was job well done in the first half.
Courtney Bruce’s ability to remain disciplined – she was penalised just 9 times across the match – would have pleased her coach. Goal defence is a relatively new position for Sarah Klau and while it’s a work in progress – particularly her drive down court – she did a strong job of tracking her nippy opponent Sheniqua Thomas.
In an MVP performance, Jo Weston’s arms over presence saw the Gems’ wing attacks find it difficult to spot their shooters. Both Sam Browne and Damisha Croney were rotated through the position, both of them almost 20cm shorter than Weston.
Australia made a host of changes in the third quarter, with only Bruce and Weston retaining their places on court. In the attacking end it made little difference – the Diamonds foot was firmly on the accelerator as they added another 25 goals to their tally. The Bajans went back to their first quarter attacking personnel and were able to drop eight goals through the ring in the third quarter – more than the total first half.
Bajan shooter Shonica Wharton delighted the crowd with some long range shooting in the fourth quarter, but unfortunately the Gems were no match for an Australian team determined to push forwards into the finals. While the margin was uncomfortable, the Gems were a worthy opposition and should have some challenging matches ahead of them.
Australia defeated Barbados 91 – 22 (23-5, 23-2, 25-8, 20-7)
Australia: Caitlin Bassett GS, Steph Wood GA, Kelsey Browne WA, Paige Hadley C, Jo Weston WD, Sarah Klau GD, Courtney Bruce GK
Bench: April Brandley, Liz Watson, Gretel Tippett, Caitlin Thwaites, Jamie-Lee Price
Coach: Lisa Alexander
Barbados: GS Shonica Wharton, GA Sheniqua Thomas, WA Samantha Browne, C Rieah Holder, WD Shonte Seale, GD Latonia Blackman, GK Shonette Azore-Bruce
Bench: Damisha Croney, Brianna Holder, Amanda Knight, Rhe-Ann Niles-Mapp, Tonisha Rock-Yaw.
Coach: Sandra Bruce-Small
Caitlin Bassett 26/30 (87%), Gretel Tippett 25/26 (96%), Caitlin Thwaites 20/20 (100%), Steph Wood 20/23 (87%)
Barbados: Shonica Wharton 20/24 (83%), Sheniqua Thomas 2/6 (33%)
Liz Watson 25 goal assists, 11 centre pass receives
Courtney Bruce 4 intercepts, 8 deflections.
WHAT THEY SAID AFTER THE GAME:
Lisa Alexander (coach, Australia)
“We wanted to have look at that tall, big defence end that we’ve got. Sarah’s game at goal defence was terrific and we played a little bit differently to how we normally play and it was great.”
“We were trying to get off the body a little bit more so that we weren’t penalised heavily, but we know we can do the one-on-one as well. It’s having those structures up our sleeves is what we’re going to need to get ball.”
On Sarah Klau “I think that she’s feeling a World Cup isn’t that dissimilar to Suncorp Super Netball and the pressure that’s on every week there, which is why Norma Plummer likes her defence end play for the Sunshine Coast Lightning, because you cannot replicate that in training or anyway else.”
Liz Watson (Australia)
On why she dominated the goal assists in the third quarter but not the fourth.
“It’s a goal of ours to always change up, we’ve got lots of different centre passes we can run, so whether that’s wing attack or goal attack on second phase, that changes up the feeder. Today we wanted to roll through all of them and figure out the ones that work well for us, and the ones we need to work on. It probably accidentally [worked out] like that, but it’s good to be able to share it a bit more.
“We said to J [Jamie-Lee Price] once you get the ball just have a go at feeding, I guess, get it in, have a feel of the different goalers, and just give it a go. I guess it’s a good opportunity for us in this game to do that, and it wasn’t like I was playing the lead and she’s following, wing attack is probably more dominant in the play of the centre passes, and centre more fills. I think she did that quite well, and once she got the touch and a few shorter ones, but then she realised give it a bit more height and the goalers will get it.”
About tomorrow’s match against Malawi
“We’ll go back tonight and I think we’re going to watch the Malawi New Zealand game as a team and just see how they’re playing. I’ve never played against Malawi but I think they do play like that Zimbabwe style, so I guess defending down low which is where they like to play a lot with their bounce passes, which we need to adjust to, we’re always big hands-over. We might be putting our hands a bit lower and see what we can do with getting intercepts down there.
On how to pick which comments on the bench in the break are the most useful.
“It’s great, the players on the bench see it differently to what you do out on court, so every time we come off we’ve got that valuable input, they’ve watched from the sideline, and obviously the coaches, they’ve got different eyes. So, I think it’s good to just sit there, let them tell me what they see, and then I’ll reassess what I feel, what it feels like out there on court, and I guess we come up with a little plan together.”