NS PREVIEW: CONSTELLATION CUP 2021

NS PREVIEW: CONSTELLATION CUP 2021

Ferns’ Chance to Shine

By Ian Harkin

In 2012, Bailey Mes was a little-known 23-year-old goal shooter, getting minimal game time as she warmed the bench behind Cathrine Latu at the Northern Mystics. In fact, she was on court for a total of just 15 minutes during the entire 2012 ANZ Championship season. So, it was a big shock when, having impressed coach Wai Taumaunu at the selection camp, she was chosen in the Silver Ferns squad. It was an even bigger shock when she was chosen as a midcourter. It was a selection that stunned almost everyone; probably Mes herself. 

What does all that have to do with this upcoming Constellation Cup series? Well, believe it or not, Bailey Mes is the only member of this current Ferns squad who has actually been part of a Constellation Cup winning team. In 2012, that Wai Taumaunu-coached team, including Mes, featured some incredible players that have gone on to be regarded as legends of New Zealand netball. Casey Kopua, or Casey Williams as she was then, led the team, which contained the names van Dyk, Tutaia and Langman. They defeated Australia 2-1, and claimed the Cup for the first time. And to date, it has also been the one and only time. 

Bailey Mes is back in the side after rehabbing her knee in 2020. Photo: Danny Dalton

Australia has dominated the ten year history of the Constellation Cup, winning the series nine times; seven outright and two others on goal difference. In all, the Diamonds have won 28 matches to the Silver Ferns’ 12, and in both 2014 and 2017, New Zealand failed to win a match. In the seven subsequent series after that 2012 triumph, the closest the Kiwis have come to victory was in 2015 when they came back from what seemed a hopeless position to square the series and go down by just two on goal difference. But as yet, they haven’t been able to lift the trophy for a second time.  

In 2021, there are a number of reasons why the Silver Ferns have a huge chance of getting that elusive win. The Australian team hasn’t played a test match in over 16 months, they have a new head coach and all four tests of the series are being played in New Zealand (although there will be no crowds unfortunately). The Diamonds are also in quarantine for the 14 days leading up to the series. So, the odds are stacked in the Silver Ferns’ favour. Add to that, injuries and retirements have uncovered a distinct lack of experience in the Diamonds’ attack end. No matter which way new coach Stacey Marinkovich goes, there will be at least one test debutant in the Australian shooting circle. 

By comparison, the only concerns facing the New Zealand team are, in a way, self-inflicted. Coach Noeline Taurua has steadfastly stuck to her guns, and some highly regarded players have missed out on selection because they couldn’t meet her strict fitness guidelines. That has left the defensive end, in particular, a little short on numbers. But it’s not short on ability. This is a strong Kiwi team, which appears to be on the up and building beautifully for next year’s Commonwealth Games. Despite Australia’s imposing record in this competition, the Silver Ferns should be favoured to take out this series, which will give them (and Bailey Mes) their second Constellation Cup win. 

Due to Covid restrictions, neutral umpires are not being used during this series, with all three umpires being based currently in New Zealand. One of them, Josh Bowring, is however an Australian. This will be the first time in two decades that Australian and New Zealand umpires have controlled matches between the two countries. Another result of Covid is that the matches are being played in just two New Zealand cities, Christchurch and Tauranga. Tauranga has yet to host a Constellation Cup test, but Christchurch has hosted four such matches, with the Diamonds winning three and the Silver Ferns one.  

Previous Constellation Cup results

2010 – Australia 2 defeated New Zealand 1
2011 – Australia 3 defeated New Zealand 2
2012 – New Zealand 2 defeated Australia 1
2013 – Australia 4 defeated New Zealand 1
2014 – Australia 4 defeated New Zealand 0
2015 – Australia 2 drew with New Zealand 2 (Aust won on +2 goal difference)
2016 – Australia 3 defeated New Zealand 1
2017 – Australia 4 defeated New Zealand 0
2018 – Australia 3 defeated New Zealand 1
2019 – Australia 2 drew with New Zealand 2 (Aust won on +11 goal difference)
2020 – Constellation Cup not held

 

Karin Burger for the Silver Ferns during the 2019 Constellation Cup. Photo: May Bailey

Karin Burger takes a spectacular intercept for the Silver Ferns during the 2019 Constellation Cup. Image: May Bailey

New Zealand Silver Ferns Preview

By: Jaimie Keay

Every time the Constellation Cup rolls around, as a Silver Ferns’ supporter you most likely hear the same thing; the team hasn’t won it since 2012.

Yes, it has been a very long time between drinks and with one title win out of ten attempts it doesn’t make for pretty reading. But, with the COVID-19 pandemic forcing the majority of international netball to remain on the sidelines in 2020, the Silver Ferns made the most of their opportunities as one of the sole teams to take the court.

The Silver Ferns will be looking to refine their court combinations, following the clean sweep of an inexperienced English side and the defeat of the New Zealand Men’s team, for the first time. Much like the Diamonds, this is the Ferns ‘ opportunity to provide court time to those knocking on the door for a permanent spot in the squad.

Silver Ferns captain, Ameliaranne Ekenasio, since her standout performance at the 2019 Netball World Cup, has not only shown she is one of the best goal-attacks in the world but has grown into a strong leader and will be relishing her first big test against the Diamonds.

This series will be the first time that Maia Wilson will receive her highest minutes against Australia. With the form she has shown in the last 12 months, Wilson will face a bruising encounter against Courtney Bruce that will have fans on the edge of their seat.

Bailey Mes returns to the team after a knee injury kept her sidelined for the past 12 months and no doubt Noeline will look to give her a bit of court-time across the series.

Similar to the Diamonds, we see a midcourt heavy side with highly touted Central Pulse youngster Maddy Gordon in line for a potential debut. Since the split of the trans-Tasman competition, the biggest question that is asked of debutants is can they bring their domestic form onto the international stage and this will again be a key potential battle against Gabi Simpson or Jamie-Lee Price.

Jane Watson will lead a refined defence end for this series. Photo: May Bailey

As has been well publicised, Silver Ferns coach Noeline Taurua has picked only three circle defenders due to a couple of players not being up to her fitness standards for international netball. While the trio of Karin Burger, Jane Watson and Sulu Fitzpatrick on paper will give up a bit of height to their Diamonds counterparts, don’t underestimate their ability to hunt ball and continue to solidify their combination moving forward.

Expect the experienced combination of Gina Crampton and Shannon Saunders to start in WA and C respectively but don’t count out Clare Kersten. After not only a strong ANZ Championship campaign for the championship winning Central Pulse in 2020 but also two standout series saw her gain valuable time at C and she is pushing Saunders for the starting gig.

With the Commonwealth Games on the horizon in 2022, Taurua will again be on the hunt for depth and providing invaluable experience against the Diamonds across the four test matches.

Having all four matches in New Zealand and with three of the top NZ and Australian umpires in the world controlling proceedings, it is all set up for the Silver Ferns to claim the Constellation Cup for only the second time. 

Let the battle begin!

 

Only six members of the victorious 2018 Diamonds Constellation Cup Squad remain. Photo: May Bailey

Australian Diamonds Preview 

By Katrina Nissen

It’s fair to say that Australia has never entered an international test series with such an inexperienced front line. But with the recent retirements and unavailabilities of key athletes, Australia’s up-and-coming young shooting talent is now given an opportunity to shine. 

With 100 Diamonds caps under her belt, Caitlin Bassett will undoubtedly shoulder much of the shooting load across the four tests, with the uncapped youngsters likely to shuffle around her. The only advantage afforded to Australia’s shooting circle is Bassett’s pre-existing shooting combinations with Cara Koenan (at Sunshine Coast Lightning) and Kiera Austin (at GIANTS netball). 

To date, Diamonds’ coach, Stacey Marinkovich hasn’t outright said that she expects to walk away with the trophy. Rather, her focus has been on education and embracing the experience of competing at the international level. So, without the pressure of winning, expect to see a moving circle at some point featuring any combo of the debutants, including Sophie Garbin and Tippah Dwan. Both athletes are capable of entering a game at clutch moments and stoically doing their job. 

Let’s not forget that this is the first international series after the Suncorp Super Shot. Dwan and later in the season Austin, both excelled at the long-range shots. Garbin can also be devastating on the long bombs when her hand is hot. Without Australia’s long bomb specialist in Steph Wood (knee injury), this is the debutants’ chance to step up and take the vacant spot in the Diamonds lineup. Will an entire season of forced long-range shooting prove to be a blessing in disguise for Australia? 

Three Queensland Firebirds could make their Diamonds debut during the Constellation Cup including defensive unit, Tara Hinchliffe and Kim Jenner. Photo: Simon Leonard

The defensive circle has two new faces in Queensland Firebirds athletes, Tara Hinchliffe and Kim Jenner. This duo hit their strides toward the end of the 2020 Suncorp Super Netball Season, so they will likely be keen to continue that form together on the international stage. Both defenders are great readers of the game and dogged taggers. However, they also featured high in the penalty count last domestic season. This tournament has high calibre umpires in Josh Bowring, Gareth Fowler and Kristie Simpson, so for the young defenders to stay in the contest and not draw the whistle, they will need to tidy up by getting off the body as much as possible. 

Hinchliffe and Jenner are joining Netball World Cup defenders Courtney Bruce, Sarah Klau and Jo Weston. Between them, there are over 80 caps of experience. Every member of the Diamond’s defence can play across both positions and are all tenacious ball hunters. The Silver Ferns will be aware of this and it may place seeds of doubt in the minds of their front end. 

The Diamonds have travelled with eight midcourt players. There is a tonne of experience with serial campaigners in Liz Watson, Paige Hadley, Jamie-Lee Price and Gabi Simpson. They will be competing for court time against debutants Jess Anstiss, Verity Charles and Maddy Proud. The eighth athlete is Kate Moloney, who has 6 caps but has narrowly missed Diamonds selection for the last few years.  

There are going to be some tough decisions and disappointed athletes, with eight Diamonds midcourters in the squad – one of whom is Gabi Simpson, who hasn’t played for the Diamonds since January 2018. Photo: May Bailey

Each of these midcourt athletes brings something to the table, whether it be leadership, versatility, feeding prowess or any number of attributes the selectors deem necessary. No doubt Marinkovich has some clever plan in place for rotating through the athletes. How the combinations will look is anyone’s guess – and fans have certainly been guessing! 

Australia is currently spoilt for choice in the midcourt, with some surprising names NOT listed in the squad. So, we expect each of these eight athletes to put forward their best, most disruptive efforts to try and secure their spot for another international rotation. 

 

Predictions 

Ian – The late change with no home crowd cheering on NZ, improves the chances of Australia. Even so, I find it difficult to see them winning this series. But I’ve badly underestimated the Diamonds before and no doubt will again in future. In all seriousness, I do think the Ferns will win this series, either 3-1 or 4-0, and Maia Wilson and Jane Watson will be the stars of the show, with the attack end being a problem area for the Diamonds.

Jaimie – As a Kiwi, I am always wary of an Australian sports team, no matter what their build up or experience with a team is like. On paper I think the Silver Ferns have their best chance to win back the Cup, but being light on defenders for the series could be a chink in the armour.

Katrina – I would love for the Diamonds to take at least one game, but I believe it will be a clean sweep for the Ferns. However, I do think that the Diamonds will close the gap over the series and we’ll see a closer score line come the fourth game. 

 

How to Watch the 2021 Constellation Cup

1st Test – Tuesday, March 2 – Christchurch Arena, Christchurch (first centre pass 7:15pm NZ local time) 
2nd Test – Wednesday, March 3 – Christchurch Arena, Christchurch (first centre pass 7:15pm NZ local time)
3rd Test – Saturday, March 6 – Trustpower Baypark Arena, Tauranga (first centre pass 4:15pm NZ local time)
4th Test -, Sunday, March 7 – Trustpower Baypark Arena, Tauranga (first centre pass 3:15pm NZ local time)

Sadly, no crowds will be attending these games. New Zealand fans can watch all the action live on Sky Sport 3.

Australian-based viewers can watch all of the Constellation Cup matches live on Channel 9, GEM and the Telstra Netball Live App. Check your local guides for times or visit the Origin Diamonds website for the full details.

The Netball Live app will also be live streaming the matches to viewers outside of Australia, but not those in NZ or the UK. Replays of the matches should be available on the app some hours after the games are finished.

Netball NZ will also be live streaming the games for people outside NZ & Australia. Hopefully, you should be able to watch HERE.

So, that means no matter where you are in the world, fingers crossed you’ll be able to watch the games live somehow. You can also follow the live scores and stats HERE.

We will post all the links and details on social media as we get closer to game one. In the meantime, you can always follow all the action with Netball Scoop on Twitter as we will be live tweeting highlights, scores, comments and more.

Australian Broadcast times for Game 1. Image courtesy of Origin Diamonds

 

 

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