The Diamonds and England last locked horns at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi in what turned out to be a dramatic semi-final showdown. For most of the contest, England had the Diamonds on the ropes and were on the verge of one of the game’s great upsets. In the end, it was Diamonds that weathered the storm to take a six-goal victory and England were left to rue the one that got away.
On Sunday afternoon in Newcastle, the re-match takes place to kick start the 2011 Holden Netball Test Series. This match is the first of three between the Diamonds and world number three England and will see new Diamonds coach Lisa Alexander begin her international career.
England, also under the guidance of new coach Anna Mayes, will be out for a far greater effort after mixed performances against the Silver Ferns this week. If England’s senior players can stand up and be counted they have the potential to really challenge the reigning World Champions.
Let’s take a look at where this game will be won and lost, starting with England’s shooters taking on the Diamonds defence.
With no Pamela Cookey or Louisa Brownfield in the team, England will be reliant on Rachel Dunn and Joanne Harten to shoulder the shooting duties. Both have the potential to fire under the post but they also have a tendency to momentarily lose the radar. Dunn and Harten will need to stand up to the pressure of the Diamonds defenders and provide clear and strong options in the circle. Young Diamond Amy Steel could be in line for her first appearance against England and would slot in nicely if paired up with Queensland Firebirds team mate Laura Geitz. With Julie Corletto and Rebecca Bulley at Alexander’s disposal, the Diamonds are certainly not short on defensive options. Bulley has been called in to replace Mo’onia Gerrard who is nursing a calf injury.
The mid court poses an interesting battle with this area of the court the strongest for the visitors. Led by skipper Jade Clarke, England has the experience to match it with the Diamonds through the mid court. Add the skill and craft of wing attack Tamsin Greenway and the tenacious nature of emerging talent Serena Guthrie, this trio is world class. The Diamonds will be without inspirational captain Natalie von Bertouch due to a foot injury, and has been replaced by Madison Browne. England has the edge over the Diamonds in terms of international experience but the question is whether they can match the young Aussies for pace, depth and diversity?
The Diamonds are spoilt for choice in the shooting department with Alexander having multiple combinations up her sleeve. Western Australian Caitlin Bassett made her debut against England in 2008 in Newcastle and is quickly putting her hand up as Australia’s first choice goal shooter. With Catherine Cox, Natalie Medhurst and Erin Bell all in top form, England will need to pull out something special to contain the Diamonds goalers. English defenders Eboni Beckford-Chambers, Stacey Francis and Ama Agbeze will be well prepared for what’s to come after fronting up against the might of the Silvers Ferns shooters this week.
On paper, the Diamonds have the wood over the English squad but with two of their noted leaders out in von Bertouch and Gerrard, the Diamonds are far from certain victors and the playing field is now leveling up. If England can contain the Diamonds shooters and make the most of their opportunities in goals then this opening test should set us up for a great three Test series.
The Diamonds take on England at the Newcastle Entertainment Centre this Sunday. If you can’t make it to the match, tune into Network Ten for LIVE coverage from 2pm or online at Telstra BigPond Sports TV at 2.40pm.
Don’t miss the first test in the 2011 Holden Netball Test Series.
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