The Diamonds have shrugged off a week dominated by the Super Netball pay dispute to beat New Zealand by 10 points and take a 1-0 lead in the Constellation Cup.
A scoring blitz at the start of the second quarter set Australia on their way and they held a young Silver Ferns side at bay to claim a 50-40 victory in front of 9,043 fans at Melbourne’s John Cain Arena on Thursday night.
The victory came after the world champions’ build-up to the series opener was overshadowed by the breakdown in collective player agreement negotiations between Super Netball players and Netball Australia.
Diamonds captain Liz Watson insists pay dispute won’t distract from Constellation CupRead more
“Whenever we come into this Diamonds environment, it’s about being 100% in and 100% focused,” centre Kate Moloney said.
“And I think as players we have full trust in the Players Association that they’re gonna keep fighting and doing what they need to do.
“But for us as Diamonds players, we’re here, we’re 100% in and fingers crossed things can get, I suppose, resolved really quickly.”
Not even brief power outages, with the court twice left in darkness with seven minutes left in the third quarter, could stop the slick-passing Diamonds.
“I’m not gonna lie, I was sneakily hoping for a break. I was like ‘time out’?” Moloney joked. “It was a bit weird.”
Courtney Bruce was player of the match after she started at goalkeeper and dominated young Silver Ferns goal shooter Amelia Walmsley (21/25), before shifting into goal defence.
Melbourne Vixens centre Moloney came on late in the first quarter after a knee injury scare to Paige Hadley, and provided energy that took Australia up a level.
Kiera Austin (22/27) and Cara Koenen (27/31) proved a slick pairing in the Diamonds’ attack, while New Zealand captain Ameliaranne Ekenasio (17/20) was busy.
Just before quarter-time, Hadley was clutching her left knee after NZ centre Maddy Gordon fell on her.Moloney replaced Hadley, who Netball Australia said had been cleared of injury.
Leading 12-10 at quarter-time after a Koenen buzzer-beater, the Australians exploded out of the break and nudged out to a nine-point lead at half-time.
“Obviously having had a bit of a break, this is our first step out again after what’s been a short preparation for us,” Diamonds coach Stacey Marinkovich said. “So yeah, pleased with the way we started the game.”
New Zealand were able to outscore Australia 14-11 in the third quarter to cut the deficit to six (40-34) at three-quarter time.
But the Diamonds closed out the game in professional fashion.
“Look, playing the world champs, definitely they showed that out there,” NZ coach Dame Noeline Taurua said.
“Giving credit to Australian Diamonds, their ball speed, the ability to wait to get to circle edge, putting the shot up, was commendable and amazing.”
The second game of the four-match series is at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre on Sunday.