The Australian Diamonds will have to block out the “outside noise” surrounding their $15 million sponsorship debacle if they are to reclaim the Constellation Cup tonight.
Just 24 hours after Hancock Prospecting made headlines across the country by pulling out for their massive deal due to “disunity” between players and Netball Australia, the Diamonds will take the court to face their rivals New Zealand in the series decider on the Gold Coast.
After two losses against the Silver Ferns in New Zealand to start the series, the Aussies came back with a vengeance in game three in front of home fans for the first time in more than 1000 days.
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The Diamonds managed to wipe the 13-goal series deficit with just one win – claiming a massive 62 to 47 victory.
It came through the return of defender Jo Weston for her first game of the series, and the introduction of Sophie Garbin (34/38 goals at 89%) at goal shooter after she’d played just one quarter in the opening two games.
Silver Ferns coach Noeline Taurua was left scratching her head as she benched both her skipper Ameliaranne Ekenasio and rising star shooter Grace Nweke in a bid to find an answer on court.
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Taurua ran through her entire bench in Melbourne’s game three, despite making limited changes to her side in their two home victories.
“It did feel like a different Australian outfit to be honest,” she said post-match.
“I thought their changes were really good in the circle. It changed things for us.
“I think we got pulled apart in our defensive end.”
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The Diamonds are taking an unchanged squad into Sunday night’s decider with Maddy Proud and Sophie Dwyer missing out while Sunday Aryang is sidelined by injury.
Coach Stacey Marinkovich this week labelled the media surrounding the Hancock Prospecting deal as “outside noise” that she was encouraging players to tune out ahead of the decider.
Netball Australia CEO Kelly Ryan on Sunday revealed she was “reasonably concerned” by the loss of the $15m deal.
“We are certainly acutely aware of where our sport has been positioned (and) we have been doing a huge amount of work behind the scenes throughout the year to make sure we can right our ship,” she said on Today.
“I’m still incredibly confident that we still have the right plans in place that will get the sport to where it needs to be.”
How to watch:
The match will be live on Fox Netball – with coverage from 7pm AEDT. Game four of the Constellation Cup begins at 7.30pm AEDT.
Follow the match through the live blog below