The Commonweath Games gold medal-winning Australian netball team are expecting arch-rivals New Zealand to be back to their best in their upcoming series.
Australia is expecting their recent dominance over arch-rivals New Zealand to be thoroughly tested when the teams meet in next month’s Constellation Cup netball series.
The Diamonds stunned the Silver Ferns to easily win the Commonwealth Games gold medal in Glasgow last month.
That extended their winning streak to five, but the Australians are hungry for more as they look to defend the World Cup in Sydney next year.
Coach Lisa Alexander admitted she was surprised by the 18-point winning margin but predicted New Zealand would rebound strongly with the four-Test series opening in Invercargill on October 2.
“I was a little bit surprised by the margin but I felt that if executed as well as we could I thought that we had the capability to not have the tight contest that we usually have,” Alexander said.
“We prepared very well and we’d done a lot of analysis work.”
She said that the Kiwis were hampered throughout the tournament by multiple injuries in their shooting ranks.
They were also going through a generational change following the surprise retirement from international netball of shooting ace Irene van Dyk.
“It wasn’t really a true reflection of their performance to be honest,” Alexander said.
“They obviously couldn’t put their best seven out on court because of their injuries so they weren’t at their best.
“They’re still a major threat and we won’t be taking them lightly that’s for sure.”
Alexander said they while they wanted to keep the winning run alive, they were building towards the World Cup.
The Diamonds won the title over New Zealand in Singapore in 2011 by a goal in over-time in the decider.
Defender and vice-captain Bianca Chatfield retired from the international game following Glasgow, with Queensland Firebirds Rebecca Bulley and Clare McMeniman called up to share her work-load.
Bulley will be part of the squad for the first three Tests (Melbourne Oct 8 and Sydney Oct 11) and McMeniman the final Test (Auckland Oct 15) plus two matches against England.
“We know you’ll never replace a Bianca Chatfield, who is an enormous competitor and her leadership … but we’re confident that Bec and Clare will do a fantastic job for us,” Alexander said.
“It’s a great opportunity for them to show what they can do before World Cup.”