The Samsung Diamonds overcame the South Africa Spar Proteas 58-52 in a challenging game that saw eleven of twelve athletes take to court.
It was a different look starting line-up for the Diamonds’ second test of the Netball Quad Series, with Caitlin Thwaites (goal shooter), Tegan Phillip (goal attack), Liz Watson (wing attack) and Jo Weston (goal defence) earning the nod.
Captain Caitlin Bassett said the team embraced the opportunity; “I said to the girls before the game, we need to relish this, South Africa getting better is great for us because we play well when we are challenged,” she recounted.
“We want to be challenged. It is fantastic to walk away from a game a think wow, we were pushed and we rose above it and came out on top.”
The Diamonds got off to a quick start, with the first four goals of the game. They finished the opening term 14-11.
South Africa took the momentum in the second quarter, stifling the Diamonds’ attack and outscoring them 16 – 13. The Diamonds struggled to feed the ball in to Philip, who was scoreless in the second term.
A timeout was called with just under six minutes remaining in the quarter, with Gretel Tippett stepping into goal attack. The Proteas took a two goal lead before the Diamonds brought the score back to 27-all in the dying seconds of the first half.
Coach Lisa Alexander said, “we changed our line up at the start and we were very confident that that line up could run it out.”
“Unfortunately, we just couldn’t find Tegan enough…hence the introduction of Gretel with Caity (Thwaites) and some beautiful work there, and then CBass (Caitlin Bassett) finished it off at the end.”
Further changes were made at the start of the second half, with April Brandley entering the game at goal defence. The Diamonds started with fire in the belly, scoring five in a row. They were quicker onto securing loose balls and found a stronger connection into the goal circle.
The Diamonds took back the lead in the third quarter, scoring 17 goals to the Proteas’ 12.
Caitlin Thwaites played three quarters at goal shooter, with 30 goals from 33 attempts at 91 percent accuracy and was named player of the match.
Alexander was pleased with the ability for the Diamonds to adapt to different combinations, and have so many players take to court.
“It’s great to be able to go, even those last two minutes to have a cameo with Madi popping on because Liz had to go off with the blood rule.
“To be able to put a player of that level on to replace Liz, who did a really solid job tonight. It was the same with April, bringing her on at halftime and seeing her take control of the game is really pleasing,” said Alexander.
Caitlin Bassett entered the game at goal shooter for the final quarter, splitting the shooting load with Tippett, seven goals apiece.
Alexander gave full credit to the South Africans, stating, “you have to respect your opposition. South Africa are fit, they are getting more and more skilful.
“They are very tight one-on-one markers. We have to do more work on our prelims and timing together. We are still working on that,” she said.
The Australian coach said that being challenged by South Africa, after their strong performance against New Zealand, was good for the sport worldwide.
“We are all getting tighter and closer at the top,” Alexander said.
“It’s fantastic for international netball. We know we have to do our homework, we have to analyse what is happening.’