Netball fans have been spoiled for choice this week. While the Fast 5 World Series has been on the television, Netball Scoop has been excited to bring international test action to our social media streams.
The Trans Tasman Cup, contested between the Australian and New Zealand Men’s and Mixed Netball teams, took place from October 23 – 27 at Priceline Stadium in Adelaide.
New Zealand finished their Trans Tasman Cup campaign with a win in the Mixed Open division on Saturday afternoon. However, the series was won by Australia, who claimed victory in the previous two tests.
New Zealand were led to victory by a great goaling performance from Julianna Naoupu and Greg Lorde.
Neither team played the opening quarter with confidence. The Australians were often a second late on their timing, and as a result their passes often hit players below the chest.
In contrast, New Zealand were nervous on the circle feed, with several overcooked passes sailing over Naoupu and Mark Overton’s heads.
A range of errors from both sides, such as breaking, stepping, and missed shots (often air balls) allowed the ball to bounce back and forth with long pauses between goals.
New Zealand decided to sub Taylor Blanchard into Wing Attack. The impact of the change wasn’t felt immediately, as the Australian Goal Keeper Dylan Nexhip stole an intercept.
Australia struggled to feed the ball into the circle, due to the New Zealand circle edge defenders limiting their options to pass out and reoffer, but once Corey Nexhip got the ball, he shot truly.
In contrast, a perfect feed from Blanchard to Overton couldn’t be finished, and the next attempt into the circle was another misfired lob.
Another intercept to Dylan Nexhip, a deflection by David Butler, and some excellent give-and-go around the circle finally saw the Australians string some goals together, with a long shot from Corey Nexhip just before quarter time taking the Aussies to a six-goal lead.
The New Zealand team had shown they were at their best when using speedy and short passes, rather than lobbing often-misdirected balls into the circle. To change this, they shook up their attack end, swinging Naoupu to Goal Shooter and introducing Greg Lorde on court at Goal Attack.
A better pass started off New Zealand’s quarter well, by drawing Dylan Nexhip out of the circle to leave Naoupu under the ring alone.
Three early mistakes from the Australians – a stepping call against Elle McDonald, held ball against Georgette Paatsch, and a mishandled feed – allowed the Kiwis to quickly win back the goals.
Dylan Nexhip worked hard to win a deflection, but the Kiwis gathered the ball. A perfect baseline drive from Lorde brought the scores level, and with the next score New Zealand took the lead from a stunned Australian team.
A great intercept from Sarah Szczykulski finally got the ball rolling for Australia in the second quarter. Australia pulled back the lead, but only for a short time.
A wasted centre pass directed to Szczykulski flew straight out of court, while, in contrast, the New Zealand midcourters had lovely vision to send an overhead pass into Naoupu, and then again off their own centre pass.
A breaking call against McDonald gave them another leg up, before a three-goal run from Naoupu stretched the New Zealand lead to five.
Naoupu had the final say on the halftime siren, with a set shot barely centimetres off the circle edge swishing through to take New Zealand to a seven-goal lead.
It was a remarkable thirteen-goal turnaround from New Zealand, who had overcome their first quarter jitters.
By double teaming Corey Nexhip in the circle, the New Zealand defenders had limited his goaling output and made him visibly frustrated.
In comparison, Naoupu was now closer to the post and could hold as an athletic target while Lorde did the grunt work around the circle edge and baseline.
Natalie Billings returned to the court as Australia’s Goal Shooter in the third quarter, pushing Corey Nexhip to Goal Attack. Szczykulski and Dylan Nexhip had also switched defensive positions, hoping to replicate their first quarter efforts.
The Kiwis continued to score accurately, while the Australians couldn’t find the ring – even with a low intercept to Szczykulski and an over-a-third call in their favour.
A held ball against Paatsch and offensive contact call against Billings saw New Zealand pull the margin beyond ten goals.
This was enough to force the Australians to bring on Mark Solomon, their dominant goaler from the previous two tests, into Goal Shooter.
He made an immediate impact, scoring thrice to pull the margin back within ten. The Australians lifted noticeably and changed their play to suit the presence of a tall, strong target.
However, bad hands from the Australian feeders sent the ball back to the Kiwis, and even when Naoupu or Lorde missed a shot, they made amends on the rebound.
A deflection to Kali Zygmont and intercept by Sheridan Wills pulled the Kiwis’ score back out again, with the three-quarter time score sitting at 24 – 38.
Lorde and Naoupu continued to drain the goals for New Zealand, and even though Australia had tidied up their feeding to find Solomon under the ring, it was too little too late.
A deflection, rebound and intercept to Dylan Nexhip within a five-minute period saw the Australians gallop down court, where Solomon sent the ball through the ring to peg some goals back.
The New Zealanders took their foot off the pressure in the dying minutes, which allowed Corey Nexhip and Jordan Bedingfield to take intercepts, but Solomon’s long-range shot fell short, leaving the Kiwis victorious by twelve goals.
As the overall series winners, Australia claimed the Mixed Open Division for the first time since 2013.
Final Score: NEW ZEALAND 52 def AUSTRALIA 40
(6 – 12, 23 – 17, 38 – 24, 52 – 40)
Australia completed a clean sweep of the Trans Tasman Cup Men’s Open division against New Zealand.
After two hefty losses to the Australians, New Zealand would have prepared for another onslaught, and they played admirably to try and halt the Australians’ scorching speed.
Junior Levi started the game with a lay-up shot, and across the quarter he was a strong holding target who rarely missed. Brodie Roberts was also accurate from mid- and long-range, while Steven Philpot and Andrew Simons brought the ball to the circle with blistering pace, giving the Australians an early 5 – 1 lead.
The Australian defensive pressure was smothering, while Levi showcased his one-handed take.
A missed feed into Levi gave New Zealand a rare chance to turn over the ball, but Adam Slattery reeled it in. Another intercept by Philpot (who finished with three intercepts for the quarter in Wing Attack) and bad hands by New Zealand gave a ten-goal lead to Australia within the opening six minutes.
An intercept to Joshua Byron was another blow for New Zealand, who were forced to change up their defensive line.
Slattery, in particular, was proving too strong in defence, with a mid-air deflection as he fell out of court earning praise from the crowd. Roberts and Levi were finding space and scoring with ease.
When the Australians made rare mistakes, New Zealand struggled to make them pay.
Jaryn Tainui did his best to deflect the ball, but his two attempts were foiled with offside calls.
A breaking call against Detroit Stirling saw a margin of twenty goals established, while a late goal attempt by New Zealand bounced out to Australia’s possession for a buzzer beater goal.
At quarter time, the score stood at 28 – 5.
The second quarter also belonged to Australia, who were taking every ball with speed and height. In comparison, New Zealand were cautious on attack, calculating every pass like a game of chess. Even when they were in control of the ball, Australia forced them out wide and out of court.
The highlight, for the New Zealanders, was an overcooked pass that miraculously hit the post to bounce back in court to Stirling’s advantage.
Australia made their first change, swapping Alastair Punshon into Goal Keeper. He got an early tip on the ball which took Australia to a thirty-goal lead.
Stefan Mateariki scored a goal whilst falling out of court, and Solia intercepted the ball in defence, but Slattery responded with his own intercept. An uncalled contact gifted the Australians another goal.
Australia’s half time lead stood at thirty-three goals, but despite the ballooning margin, the New Zealand players each showed moments of brilliance. The trouble was stringing these plays together when Australia were cutting off every connection.
It was Australia’s turn to make wholesale changes after half time. Jerome Gillbard and Eugene Lee came into Goal Shooter and Goal Attack respectively, while Ely Harrison took the Centre bib for a cameo appearance after a back injury had kept him out of the earlier tests.
Even without Levi and Roberts, the Australians lost none of their attacking pace. Lee matched Roberts’ speed, while Gillbard provided an athletic and creative target. Although they ran into each other’s space occasionally, this was the product of a slow, messy start from both teams as they adjusted to the changes.
Goldsmark-White snatched an intercept for New Zealand, but his quick pass in to Jefferies was wasted and chased down by Slattery.
Slattery also got the crowd roaring with a shot block and intercept.
New Zealand had another chance to respond when a bad pass from Lee was thrown away on the transverse line, but Slattery rebounded their next attempt.
Edwin Solia blocked a pass into the Australian circle and intercepted the ball, but another intercept to Slattery kept the Australian score climbing.
An athletic overhead take by Gillbard saw out the three-quarter time score at 63 – 19.
The blowout score was having no impact on the Australian crowd’s enjoyment, who were revelling in the dominant performance.
An intercept to Blake Taane opened up the final quarter positively for New Zealand, but it was quickly undone by a stepping call against Jaryn Tainui.
Meanwhile, the Australian bullet passes were magnetised to find Gillbard under the post, while Punshon stole another circle intercept.
Australia chose to put Levi back on court in Goal Keeper, where he wrecked further havoc, this time in defence. Gillbard scored the Australians’ 70th goal, while Slattery responded to some umpire attention by snatching a clean intercept.
Philpot returned to the court, while an intercept to Dylan McPherson (which set his cheer squad in the stands into a frenzy) was made even more impressive as he threw an impeccable mid-air, cross-court pass to Gillbard under the post.
The Australians were pulling out their party tricks, with a steal from McPherson topping off an excellent match.
Lee goaled to send the final score over eighty, and the Australians took the win 81 – 28. After three resounding wins across the series, Australia also claimed overall victory in the Men’s Open Division.
While New Zealand showed glimpses of great skill, the blowout score must be attributed to the scintillating form of the Australian team, with Slattery the most influential player on the court.
But off the court, perhaps the best way to sum up the value of this Trans Tasman Cup series – and the rising stature of Australian men’s netball – was the image of a young netballer approaching Junior Levi for a photograph, and Levi hoisting the boy onto his shoulders for the photo.
Final Score: AUSTRALIA 81 def NEW ZEALAND 28
(29 – 5, 47 – 14, 63 – 19, 81 – 28)
OFF COURT OBSERVATIONS AND HIGHLIGHTS
• A highlight for those in attendance, in between the Mixed Open and Men’s Open tests, was when fourteen young South Australian boys took part in a Junior exhibition match which showcased some enthusiastic young talent and got the crowd excited. There was a resounding cheer for every goal scored, and every intercept taken brought the house down.
• South Australia was an apt location for this year’s tournament, as Netball SA prepares to launch its Junior M League competition for 12- to 16-year-old boys this year (registrations are still open). Considering the absence of a South Australian player in any of the four participating Australian teams in this 2018 Trans Tasman Cup series, the exhibition match was another indicator of the need for the newly-minted Junior M League in SA.
• Australian Men’s Open player Dylan McPherson had his own cheer squad on hand. Donning lime green shirts, each with a yellow letter spelling out ‘McPherson,’ they were very vocal – particularly when Dylan made it onto the court in the third quarter. Even better? One of them was the winner of the door raffle, and went home with a ball signed by the team.
• Post-match, Steven Philpot ran through a “Wall of Honour”: a tunnel of Australian hands to celebrate his retirement.
TRANS TASMAN CUP OVERALL RESULTS
AUSTRALIA WIN SERIES 3 – 0
Test 1: AUSTRALIA 82 def NEW ZEALAND 37
Test 2: AUSTRALIA 76 def NEW ZEALAND 44
Test 3: AUSTRALIA 81 def NEW ZEALAND 28
AUSTRALIA WIN SERIES 2 – 1
Test 1: AUSTRALIA 58 def NEW ZEALAND 45
Test 2: AUSTRALIA 63 def NEW ZEALAND 46
Test 3: NEW ZEALAND 52 def AUSTRALIA 40
23 & UNDER
AUSTRALIA WIN SERIES 3 – 0
Test 1: AUSTRALIA 58 def NEW ZEALAND 23
Test 2: AUSTRALIA 55 def NEW ZEALAND 23
Test 3: AUSTRALIA 73 def NEW ZEALAND 34
20 & UNDER
NEW ZEALAND WIN SERIES 2 – 1
Test 1: NEW ZEALAND 47 def AUSTRALIA 44
Test 2: AUSTRALIA 41 def NEW ZEALAND 39
Test 3: NEW ZEALAND 42 def AUSTRALIA 35
*All photographs were taken during the 23 & Under Test of the Trans Tasman Cup. We hope you enjoy our NS Photographers’ work.
Correction: An earlier version of this article contained a typo, which has since been corrected.