The Diamonds slipped to defeat in their first test under new coach Stacey Marinkovich and lost 49-44 to New Zealand at the opening of the Constellation Cup.
On Tuesday night, about 492 days after the last trip and two days after the quarantine ended, Australia was defeated from the blocks in Christchurch and never recovered. The victory will give Kiwi hope to win the cup for the first time since 2012.
Especially for a quarter in the quarter and seven at halftime, New Zealand’s leadership dropped to double numbers at the start of their third term before Australia came back.
Marinkovich knew the changes and achieved some success: captain Caitlin Bassett on goal and debutant Kiera Austin in the attack on goal scored five straight goals. Injecting Karin Burger into the defense in the middle of the third term turned the table and Silver Ferns went to the final change before 40-31.
Center Liz Watson said the Diamonds made “basic mistakes” and “tried to get through the zone defense.”
Australia overshadowed Aotearoo in the fourth quarter and won 13-9, but left too much work to do. Bassett, a regular skipper under former coach Lisa Alexander, but the first of Marinkovic’s returned leaders in this series, scored 19 goals from 21 attempts in a strong display.
Against the Silver Ferns steel defense, Austin showed early nerves as she missed four of her first 10 before finishing with 18 of 24 shots. Verity Charles also debuted in diamonds, playing in the second half in winger attack. The third debutant, Cara Koenen, took Bassett’s place for a fourth term and scored seven, shooting at 100%.
The series is being played behind closed doors in Christchurch this week, with crowds and matches in Tauranga being canceled due to the Covid-19 outbreak. Australia will have to win the last three games or draw a 2-2 series with a healthier goal difference to maintain the Constellation Cup for the eighth consecutive time.
Silver fern coach Noeline Taurua, who led the last victory over Australia in the 2019 World Cup, handed Diamonds a notice of their intention. “We’re looking for it,” Taurua said. “Now is the time for us.”
The second match is on Wednesday before the series ends with matches on Saturday and Sunday.