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Shooters come under netball scrutiny

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 20/10/2016 Cathy Walshe

Maria Tutaia © Matt King/Getty Images Maria Tutaia Goal attacks Maria Tutaia and Gretel Tippett both came under scrutiny for vastly different reasons in Thursday's fourth and final Constellation Cup netball Test won 49-45 by Australia.

The win gave the Diamonds a 3-1 series victory, the sixth time in seven years they've held the trophy.

The performance of 104-cap veteran Tutaia, wearing the black dress for the first time in over a year after battling back from a foot injury, was key for the Silver Ferns in Invercargill.

Equally important for the Diamonds was rookie Tippett, playing her 10th game for Australia and at just 23 years of age, an exciting long-term prospect in the shooting circle.

Tutaia came on midway through the second quarter, replacing Te Paea Selby-Rickit as the Diamonds edged out to a five-goal lead.

Tippett was replaced barely a minute later, superseded by Natalie Medhurst as Australian coach Lisa Alexander looked for a more measured game than Tippett was providing.

But while Tutaia stayed on, impressing New Zealand coach Janine Southby with her poise and tactical nous, Medhurst lasted only until halftime when 23-year-old Tippett returned.

A recent convert to netball from basketball, Tippett had been harried into making what Alexander describes as rookie mistakes..

"She was making a few rushed errors," said Alexander, who looked to 85-Test veteran Medhurst to provide a steadying influence.

"Nat's a professional, and she knows what to do to get out there and influence the team.

"That's what she tried to do - it probably wasn't great, I have to say, but it gave Gretel an opportunity to have a breath and then get back out there in the second half and put on a more composed performance."

Tippett's shooting was sub-par in volume and accuracy - she shot seven from 10 - but her work further up the court was exemplary and Alexander believes she has a lot to offer.

In contrast, Tutaia shot 17 from 20 and her combination with shooter Bailey Mes kept redoubtable Australia defenders Clare McMeniman and Sharni Layton guessing.

"She brought that experience and cool head," Southby said.

"She started opening Bailey up a lot more, getting that ball into the circle and bringing that ability to turn and shoot."

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