Contributors – Jaimie Keay, Andrew Kennedy and Ian Harkin. Photos by Steve McLeod.
THE STORY SO FAR…
By Jaimie Keay
At the end of two test matches it is one win a piece and the series is alive and well.
In two matches which were mirror-images of each other, the Silver Ferns came out of the blocks firing and led from start to finish in the opening match before the Diamonds responded the same way to take the win in test 2.
After getting 60 minutes under their belt after 14 days in managed isolation, the Diamonds showed once again despite a lack of test caps amongst the group they can compete with the world champions.
At the end of two tests, both teams have taken the opportunity to also bring some new blood into the international arena. For the Diamonds Cara Koenan, Sophie Garbin, Kiera Austin and Verity Charles have all seen court time, while the Silver Ferns have given Maddy Gordon her first cap in the second test match.
Koenan in particular has been a standout for the green and gold with her 15 minutes in the 1st test netting 7/7 at 100%, followed up by a full 60 minutes in test 2 with 29/34 and claiming the most valuable player award.
Leading her team from the front in the opening test match, Ferns captain Ameliaranne Ekenasio was rested in test two with a sore calf and was missed out on court. Word from the Silver Ferns coach Noeline Taurua is that she will be back for the third test on Saturday.
With the Diamonds having an extended squad available, will coach Stacey Marinkovich look to make further changes to her game day 12 for test three and what will Noeline Taurua and her staff see as areas for them to improve?
FIRST TEST – NEW ZEALAND 49 def AUSTRALIA 44
(14-10, 28-21, 40-31, 49-44)
GA Ekenasio (capt)
Burger, Falkner, Mes, Saunders, Souness
During 3rd Q – Burger GD (Fitzpatrick), Watson to GK
During 4th Q – Fitzpatrick GK (Burger), Watson to GD
During 4th Q – Saunders WA (Crampton)
During 4th Q – Burger GD (Watson)
Wilson 31/40 (78%)
Ekenasio 18/23 (78%)
TOTAL 49/63 (78%)
Assists 44 (Crampton 19)
Gains 9 (Watson 3)
Penalties 38 (Winders 10)
Turnovers 18 (Kersten 5)
GS Bassett (capt)
Charles, Garbin, Jenner, Klau, Koenen
Start of 2nd Q – Klau GK (Weston), Bruce to GD
Start of 3rd Q – Charles WA (Moloney), Weston WD (Simpson), Watson to C
Start of 4th Q – Koenen GS (Bassett)
Bassett 19/21 (91%)
Austin 18/24 (75%)
Koenen 7/7 (100%)
TOTAL 44/52 (85%)
Assists 37 (Austin 13)
Gains 16 (Bruce 8)
Penalties 68 (Weston 13)
Turnovers 27(Austin 7)
Player of the match: Gina Crampton (NZ)
Match report – First Test
By Jaimie Keay
Good to get the first win on the board was the feeling from the Silver Ferns after they claimed the first test win of this year’s Constellation Cup series, 49-44. Both sides had moments of brilliance and flow through the court but for the Silver Ferns, ending the first quarter with a four goal lead was pivotal in helping them to an eventual five goal victory. Player of the match Gina Crampton had an impressive outing at wing-attack for the home team, finishing with an almighty 19 goal assists and sharing the centre pass receives nicely with captain Ameliaranne Ekenasio.
With 16 months of no international netball for the Diamonds and a required 14 day managed isolation stay, expectations were tempered as to what they would bring to the court for new coach Stacey Marinkovich. With an eye on next year’s Commonwealth Games and the World Cup the following year, having three players earn their first taste of international netball in Verity Charles, Cara Koenan and Kiera Austin, was a sign of things to come. Defensively the Diamonds built throughout the match, and they would have been pleased with winning the final quarter.
For the Silver Ferns, the evolution of Maia Wilson continues to be a talking point amongst international netball fans. In her first match against the Diamonds, she showed once again why she has taken the starting goal shooter bib and made it her own. While her shooting accuracy of 78% will not be as pleasing, it was her volume of 31 goals which proved the difference in this game. If she could again put up a similar volume, it would go a long way to helping her side to notch up a second win on Wednesday night.
For the Diamonds, all three debutants impressed in their first taste of international netball. Notably West Coast Fever wing attack Verity Charles added energy, spark and pace to the court while Cara Koenan came on in the final quarter and finished on 100%, continuing to showcase in particular her excellent skills on the baseline.
Many Diamonds fans have been calling for the return of Queensland Firebirds wing defence Gabi Simpson to the international arena, but the positional switch of Jo Weston outside the circle caused havoc for the Silver Ferns in the second half. Simpson is well known for her physical positioning, speed off the mark and reading of the play, but it was the long arms of Weston that saw in particular Gina Crampton’s goal assist numbers drop.
What needs improvement?
Not surprisingly with a new-ish attack end for the Diamonds, at times it was quite stagnant and not able to withstand the zone-defence of the Silver Ferns. Only coming out of managed isolation the day before the test match, and not having had any international netball in season 2020, it was only to be expected. Coach Stacey Marinkovich has got a number of talented players to work with, and seeing the combination of Koenan and Austin creating and finishing a number of opportunities late in the game, it could certainly be given the start on Wednesday night.
The Diamonds will also need to have a look at the tape and see what they can do about minimising the penalty count. Finishing with 69 penalties to the Silver Ferns 38, is far too many and the question will be if they can adjust either quicker during a game to rectify their physicality to ensure the home team are not given easy passes and shots at goal.
Where was it won?
New Zealand finishing with ten more attempts at goal than the Diamonds would have been a worry for Marinkovich. Ekenasio and Wilson both shot at just 78%, and this kept the margin relatively close, but Australia wouldn’t want to rely on that in future. They would need to produce more shots on goal in test two to stay in touch with the World Champions. Uncharacteristically, Caitlin Bassett on a number of occasions opted to pass out of the circle or to her shooting partner Austin, instead of taking a shot on goal.
Where was it lost?
Turnovers, turnovers and more turnovers. When you give up 27 in a match, it is certainly tough to gain the upper hand on the scoreboard. Giants’ goal attack Kiera Austin in her debut was guilty of seven of those, which is likely down to the pressure of international netball. For the Silver Ferns defensive end of Winders, Watson, Fitzpatrick and Burger they gave up only two turnovers compared to Bruce, Weston, Simpson and Klau who coughed up 7 between them.
When was it won and lost?
With the Diamonds’ difficult preparation coming into the test, most would agree that the Silver Ferns grabbing the lead and holding it in the first quarter, probably went a long way towards sealing the win for them. They continued to push the lead out to 11 goals in the last quarter. The Diamonds were able to claw some of it back late, but it was a bridge too far.
Jane Watson played her 50th test for New Zealand in Test 2. Image Steve McLeod
SECOND TEST – AUSTRALIA 45 def NEW ZEALAND 36
(15-6, 30-16, 38-28, 45-36)
WA Watson (capt)
Bassett, Charles, Garbin, Jenner, Price
During 3rd Q – Garbin GA (Austin)
Start of 4th Q – Price WD (Weston)
During 4th Q – Austin GA (Garbin)
Koenen 29/34 (85%)
Austin 13/24 (54%)
Garbin 3/6 (50%)
TOTAL 45/64 (70%)
Assists 37 (Watson 21)
Gains 15 (Bruce 4)
Penalties 38 (Bruce 12)
Turnovers 23 (Austin 10)
WA Crampton (co-capt)
GK Watson (co-capt)
Fitzpatrick, Gordon, Mes, Saunders, Souness
During 1st Q – Gordon WD (Winders)
Start of 2nd Q – Fitzpatrick GK (Burger), Mes GA (Falkner), Watson to GD
During 2nd Q – Saunders C (Kersten), Souness WA (Crampton)
During 2nd Q – Winders WD (Gordon), Burger GD (Watson)
Start of 3rd Q – Watson GD (Burger), Crampton WA (Souness)
During 3rd Q – Kersten C (Saunders)
Start of 4th Q – Gordon WD (Winders)
During 4th Q – Saunders C (Kersten), Winders WD (Gordon)
Wilson 32/38 (84%)
Mes 3/5 (60%)
Falkner 1/2 (50%)
TOTAL 36/45 (80%)
Assists 31 (Crampton 10)
Gains 15 (Watson 7)
Penalties 57 (Winders, Watson, Burger, Fitzpatrick 8)
Turnovers 29 (Wilson 8)
Player of the match: Cara Koenen (Australia)
Match report – Second Test
By Andrew Kennedy
In an impressive turnaround from the first test loss in Christchurch 24 hours prior, the Diamonds outfit showed that debutants, quarantine, and a new coach couldn’t stop Australia from throwing out the toughest netball contest in the world. They began in sizzling form with a 7-0 run early in the first quarter, and maintained enough pace to keep their large lead for the rest of the match. As Caitlin Bassett sat on the bench, three shooters with a total of only two prior caps lead the charge with calm and balance. In Silver Fern Jane Watson’s 50th test cap, mere patches of flair from the hosts New Zealand in the second half were not enough, and it was the world number one that came away nine-goal victors to level the series one apiece.
It was the Australian defensive four that were the key. They had figured out both how to track and get around their opposing shooters, and to either squeeze or separate the midcourters, so the natural Ferns attacking flow was stifled. The Diamonds beat the Kiwis in deflections 30-23, and pickups 19-16.
Equally Liz Watson was brilliant in her first test as captain, leading with her classy 21 goal assists, consistent reoffers, smart choices, and good court balance. She inspired the whole team to be more tenacious throughout most of the 60 minutes.
Both opposing goal shooters impressed with their accuracy in the mid-eighties, and it was a fascinating contrast to observe the very different movement and holding styles from the two 23-year-olds. Maia Wilson maintained her clearing space using the body, while Cara Koenen was more evasive and rarely used a hold.
Keeping Jo Weston at wing defence for Australia was pivotal, given her excellent tracking and superior height and reach. She accrued three gains, one intercept, and seven deflections in only 45 minutes, and helped eliminate the pass and cut plays of New Zealand.
There was a favourable turnaround in penalties for the Diamonds. Both teams had been out of play predominantly for contact rather than obstruction in both tests. We had seen Australia penalised 68 times to New Zealand’s 38, but in this game it was 49 to 57. This was a combination of adjustments by the visiting team and the change in umpiring to one from each nation.
The Silver Ferns could be proud of their defence over the shot, reducing their opponents’ accuracy from 85% in test one to 70% in this match, creating more chances to rebound. However, while they took eight defensive rebounds, the Australian shooters still grabbed five.
It was exciting for New Zealand to see two new debutants, Monica Falkner at goal attack in the starting seven, and Maddy Gordon later in the first quarter at wing defence. Australia gave 15 minutes of play to new cap Sophie Garbin across quarters three and four.
What needs improvement?
Both teams have major problems with their goal attack position. None of the four players used at goal attack shot above 60%, and Austin and Mes were in the top three for turnovers with ten and four respectively. Even though Austin appears to be the favoured athlete for Australia, another uncapped player Tippah Dwan could be given an opportunity. For the Silver Ferns, Wilson scored more goals at a better percentage than test one, but the input of their injured captain Ekenasio was sorely missed.
The match was a see-saw – New Zealand were asleep at the beginning, and Australia started to clam up in the second half. Both teams need to find ways to renew energy, connection, and focus during a quarter, keeping the movement and quick ball release, rather than waiting until breaks for pep talks and instructions from the bench.
New Zealand opted for many midcourt changes, usually within quarters. They need to rediscover their exceptional pass and cut play from the first test to get slicker access to the goal circle again. Kersten, who had a great test at centre last night, appeared with a lot of strapping on her legs and was not as effective.
Where was it won?
It was a team game from Australia, where the defenders had managed to track and frustrate the Kiwis, ruining their free play seen in the previous test. The Diamonds attackers were in the first half very patient and accurate. New coach Stacey Marinkovich made the big call to keep incumbent captain Bassett on the bench, and started to see this very new-look line gel.
Where was it lost?
New Zealand must have expected that Koenen might have begun at goal shooter. Nevertheless, Watson and Burger failed to adjust to the rotation of the Diamonds shooters, frequently caught both chasing the front player and leaving the post open.
The Kiwis simply didn’t have their mojo from yesterday’s contest. It was a combination of a let-down of energy, their opponent learning quickly from the loss, and the new opposing players in novel combinations that foiled the host nation.
When was it won and lost?
Australia earned their entire nine-goal win in the first quarter. They zipped out of the blocks with smooth progress to the circle in few passes, elegant shooting, and very few turnovers, giving them a 15-6 lead. The key to Australia’s attack was easy dominance by Liz Watson at wing attack, and both Kiera Austin and Cara Koenen found frequently on baseline dodges. The dominance continued to quarter two, which the Diamonds won 15-10. New Zealand only managed to win the third quarter, and only by four goals.
The resurgence of the Silver Ferns in the second half was primarily down to the litany of missed goals from Australia, and more defensive tips and pickups, but they left their revival too late.
How did they do that?
In the second quarter using a set play, Australia scored in just six seconds! Austin took the first phase and immediately sighted Watson bolting to the top of the circle. The Australian captain flicked the ball underhand and sideways with Fitzpatrick right on her, delivered to Koenen alone under the post.
STATISTICS AFTER TWO TESTS:
Goals – Aust 89-85
Shooting % – NZ 79-77
Goals from 3m+ – Aust 8-5
Shooting % from 3m+ – Aust 53-42
Goals from Centre Pass – Aust 57-50
Goals from Gains – Aust 15-13
Goals from Turnovers – NZ 22-17
Offensive Rebounds – Aust 8-2
Centre Pass Receives – NZ 82-81
Assists – NZ 75-74
Feeds with Attempt – Aust 102-98
Gains – Aust 31-24
Defensive Rebounds – 9-9
Intercepts – 6-6
Deflections with Gain – Aust 13-9
Pickups – NZ 33-27
Penalties – Aust 117-95
Contacts – Aust 97-86
Obstructions – Aust 20-9
Turnovers – NZ 47-46
Stats leaders so far:
Most Goals – 63 Wilson (NZ)
Best Shooting % – 91 Bassett (Aust)
Most Offensive Rebounds – 4 Koenen (Aust)
Most Centre Pass Receives – 28 Crampton (NZ)
Most Assists – 32 L.Watson (Aust)
Most Feeds with Attempt – 44 L.Watson (Aust)
Most Gains – 12 Bruce (Aust)
Most Defensive Rebounds – 7 Bruce (Aust)
Most Intercepts – 2 Bruce, Klau, L.Watson (Aust), Kersten, J.Watson (NZ)
Most Deflections with Gain – 4 J.Watson (NZ)
Most Pickups – 7 Crampton (NZ)
Most Penalties – 20 Bruce (Aust)
Most Contacts – 18 Bruce (Aust), Winders (NZ)
Most Obstructions – 6 Moloney (Aust)
Most Turnovers – 11 Austin (Aust)
Ongoing injuries/unavailability: Ameliaranne Ekenasio missed the second test with a calf injury but is a chance of returning for the final two games.
Saturday 6th March
4.15pm Third test
Sunday 7th March
3.15pm Fourth test