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Diamonds defence determined to dominate

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 19/10/2016 Cathy Walshe

If there's anything Sharni Layton has learned from international netball, it's the defensive dark arts of disruption.

The 1.88m goal keep hasn't yet amassed a huge number of caps - just over 40 at the last count - in the five years since she made her Diamonds debut against New Zealand.

But there's no doubt she knows the secret to constructing an intimidating and consistently effective circle defence.

It's all about teamwork. And it's Layton's combination with goal defence and Australian captain Clare McMeniman which has laid the base for Australia's two 12-goal wins over New Zealand in the four-Test Constellation Cup series.

The Silver Ferns fought back with a 53-51 victory in the second Test last week in Launceston, but Australia go into Thursday's final Test in Invercargill all but assured of a series win for the sixth time in seven years.

"For us, it's all about working as a unit," Layton said.

"The Silver Ferns did a great job in Launceston of separating us. Mixing new combinations takes a while to gel, but I love the way we've been building with every game."

It's not just the defensive end she's talking about. Diamonds coach Lisa Alexander's careful succession planning has paid dividends, allowing players like goal attack Gretel Tippett or wing defence Gabi Simpson to slot in smoothly against world No.2 New Zealand.

Only two players from the Diamonds World Cup-winning team of 2015 took the court in Australia's 62-50 third Test win over the Silver Ferns - midcourters Kim Ravaillion and Madi Robinson.

"There have been a lot of changes," Layton admits.

"But those girls have been in the squad, they been at the camps and they know how we play.

"We're not just a team of seven or 12, we're actually a team of 18 or 20, and every one knows what's expected of them."

Layton, 28, plays an important part in reinforcing those expectations, her booming voice from back court a constant presence directing, instructing and encouraging her teammates.

But at the end of an intense series, with four matches in 11 days, even Layton's impressive voice is faltering.

"I dunno mate, it's dying," she said. "I'll have to get it checked out post-season, but I'm sure when it needs to come out during the game, it will."

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