Diamonds coach Lisa Alexander expects the Roses to use the upcoming series to prove last year’s success was no fluke
Never has a Quad Series meant more. Six months out from the Netball World Cup, the first international tournament of 2019 – featuring Australia, England, New Zealand and South Africa, beginning in Liverpool next week – presents a stage for vengeance and vindication.
The Diamonds, still wounded after an excruciating one-goal loss to the Roses in the gold medal match at last year’s Commonwealth Games and despite accounting for a depleted English side post-Games, want “real” revenge in the form of beating England’s best seven.
England – led by shooter Jo Harten, who was missing injured from the Roses lineup that lost to Australia in the September Quad Series – finally have a chance to prove the history-making gold, which sparked a resurgence in the sport across England and won the side numerous prestigious accolades, wasn’t an anomaly.
Under new coach Noeline Taurua, a refreshed Silver Ferns will be out to make a statement too, after missing a Commonwealth medal for the first time and losing frequently throughout 2018.
If Tracey Neville’s English charges win the Quad title, they will break an antipodean convention – only Australia and New Zealand have won the series in its five iterations since 2016. But this time around Australia coach Lisa Alexander is content in chase position, with “all the pressure” on England to fire at home.
“I’m looking forward to this series more than any other Quad Series before,” Alexander says. “There are so many unknowns. You don’t know what’s going to happen and that’s the ideal setting for the theatre of sport. England will be expecting to go out and win the series and prove that last year wasn’t a fluke. They’ll be out to get us, no doubt.
“We haven’t played what we consider to be their strongest line-up in any series since that gold medal match and we want England to be as strong as possible. We want Jo [Harten] out there with Helen [Housby], we want to play the best as we build towards the World Cup.”
The Diamonds head into matches against South Africa on Sunday (early Monday morning AEDT), New Zealand on 20 January and England in London on 21 January with the same squad that won the Constellation Cup in October, spearheaded by shooter and captain Caitlin Bassett.
Also in the side are newly-minted Diamonds Kelsey Browne, Jamie-Lee Price, Kate Moloney and Liz Watson. The quartet of midcourters present Alexander, who also has wing defence specialist Gabi Simpson, with a chance to test engine room combinations and other partnerships across the court. It’s all about experimentation ahead of July’s World Cup in Liverpool. But also winning, naturally.
“It’s a lovely jigsaw for me,” Alexander says. “We have to try to get some of the athletes who haven’t been on court for a while, like Emily Mannix, more court time in this series, to expose her to that fire. But you don’t just get a start in a Test as a Diamond. You have to earn your spot. We need to find the balance and we need to win.”
But former Roses player Tamsin Greenway believes England can take the series. “The vibe around the squad is that they are the best team at the moment, that they can win it,” she says. “The Housby-Harten partnership brings with it a hell of a lot of confidence, as they’re the only shooting combination in world netball which truly shares the load.
“If the Aussies lose to England, they’ll have six full months before the World Cup to ponder ‘oh goodness, can we actually beat them?’ The self-doubt will creep in.”
Alexander gets the long game. “Are we hungry? Let’s just say, we all know what’s coming in July.”