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New-look Diamonds need to lift again

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 4 days ago Cathy Walshe

Every now and then, Australia netball coach Lisa Alexander has to remind herself that her team aren't quite as experienced as she thinks.

Given the poise with which they've inflicted two 12-goal losses on New Zealand in the four-Test Constellation Cup series, it's not surprising Alexander has high expectations.

There's very little doubt the Diamonds will retain the Constellation Cup, given New Zealand need to win the fourth and final Test in Invercargill on Thursday by 22 goals to regain the trophy they've won only once in six years.

But the Silver Ferns stung Australia last week with a 53-51 second Test win in Launceston, leaving Alexander wary of taking too much for granted at Stadium Southland in two days' time.

She points out that only two of the team who won last year's netball World Cup took the court in Saturday's 62-50 thumping of New Zealand: shooter Caitlin Bassett and midcourter Kim Ravaillion.

"You kind of forget that sometimes - you have to remind yourself," Alexander told NZ Newswire.

"It sounds like there's some old combinations there, but there isn't. They're new, and we're learning more and more about that group."

Part of that learning is analysing the hiccups which led to their narrow second-Test loss, a defeat which still rankles slightly with Alexander.

"We went right back to the basics of how we prepare for each Test - you can't just think it's going to be nice and easy, like it was in Sydney.

"I think in Launceston, a little bit was taken for granted."

She says the Diamonds' win in Auckland showed a distinct improvement, but they'll have to lift again in Invercargill.

"It's doing all the little things well - the defensive transitions, making sure we secure possession powerfully.

"We have to think about how we can improve on everything we did the other night."

The Silver Ferns have also been missing some key players, in particular goal attack Maria Tutaia, whose 30 minutes in the third Test was her first outing for New Zealand in more than a year.

With Kayla Cullen injured, they've also been forced to play centre Laura Langman on the wing while Shannon Francois takes over the midcourt role.

"I think for both teams, there are new players and new combinations, and that always takes time."

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