Australia’s 25-goal win over South Africa has been soured by injury to midcourter Paige Hadley.
The Swifts star was the only player not to feature in game one, and played limited minutes in game two as it was revealed she was troubled by a “knee niggle”.
Given the nod to start against South Africa after a day off, Hadley look untroubled by injury in the opening term.
But disaster struck in the second as the midcourter quickly headed to the bench.
She was seen clutching at her right leg before ice was strapped to her calf.
While commentator Sue Gaudion stressed she did not know the extent of Hadley’s injury, she warned it could be “game over” for the star if it was a calf strain.
Hadley was seen limping as she made her way to the team huddle post-match in another sign the injury could be more serious than first thought.
“It doesn’t look good does it,” commentator Cath Cox said.
After the game, Diamonds coach Diamonds coach Stacey Marinkovich said Hadley had re-injured a niggle picked up earlier in the national team camp: “I don’t know the update. Obviously she has tweaked her calf. We’ll see what the result is. The medical staff will work through it and we’ll just go through our plans to get that recovery right. Everything was looking good. She was moving well. She was playing really well.”
The Diamonds still have three games to play before Monday’s gold medal match – if they qualify.
Without Hadley, the Diamonds would be down to 11 fit players with training partners like Jamie-Lee Price not able to rejoin the group, despite travelling to the Games with the squad.
Once the final 12 players were locked in, Price and fellow training partners like Donnell Wallam were able to begin holidays in Europe.
Hadley’s injury was the only sour note from the contest as the Diamonds claimed their third victory for the tournament, beating South Africa 74-49.
QUARTER BY QUARTER MATCH REPORT
The Australian Diamonds headed into their biggest test of the Commonwealth Games, with Paige Hadley given the nod to start despite missing all of game one and playing just 15 minutes in game two.
While South Africa were without two key players in Karla Pretorius (pregnancy) and Lenize Potgieter (injury), they still remained the fifth ranked team.
Gretel Bueta got her third start in three games at goal shooter, with Steph Wood and Liz Watson out in front of her.
Hadley started in centre with Ash Brazill, Jo Weston and Courtney Bruce rounding out the defensive end.
Gretel Bueta got herself on the board early starting in her third match as goal shooter.
Down the other end, the defensive combo of Courtney Bruce and Jo Weston were heavily penalised as South Africa were able to go goal for goal early.
With ex-Australian Diamonds coach and now South African netball mentor Norma Plummer watching on, the SPAR Proteas didn’t shy away from the physicality.
Bruce had the first intercept of the game but the ball from Steph Wood into Bueta sailed over the baseline.
“The timing, the elevation, the reach from Bruce,” commentator Sue Gaudion praised.
“Australia just don’t waste any time when there’s that turnover,” Catherine Cox added.
“When the head’s down, the ball is absolutely swinging.”
The Aussies hit double figures after less than 10 minutes, but the South Africans didn’t go into their shell and found shooter Ine-Marie Venter over the top of Bruce in a risky play.
South Africa’s coaching staff swung some midcourt changes and they paid off as the two sides went goal-for-goal.
But when Bruce got her hands to another deflection, the Aussies converted another break.
Lefebre Rademan failed to land her long shot on the buzzer as the Diamonds held a 19-11 lead at the first change.
Bueta sinking 15/15 in the opening term.
“It’s been slick in attack finding Bueta, Wood’s ball placement has been amazing,” Cox said.
The Aussies punished a Rademan centre break as the margin reached double figures for the first time in the match early in the second.
Another Bruce intercept ensured the lead continued to grow.
“It’s looking effortless what they are doing in attack,” Cox said.
But the growing lead was quickly soured when Hadley departed nine minutes into the second term.
She was seen grabbing at her right leg as she made her way to the bench, with Kate Moloney introduced as centre.
“That could be game over,” Gaudion questioned as ice went to the calf of Hadley.
Steph Wood continued her good form from range as the margin blew out to 16.
Zanele Vimbela made her way to the bench from goal defence after a heavy collision with Aussie skipper Liz Watson.
Two turnovers from Khanyisa Chawane gifted Australia possession, while Tshina Mdau was given a caution for deliberate obstruction just minutes after she came on to the court.
When Wood failed to find Bueta, Venter made it count in the dying seconds of the half.
Bueta was able to shrug off a big collision with the post as the Diamonds took a 40-24 lead.
Coach Stacey Marinkovich swung the changes for the third term with Keira Austin coming on as goal attack and Sunday Aryang introduced at GD.
And it was Austin who had the first miss for the night for the Diamonds, after a brilliant 40/40 opening half.
But South Africa just couldn’t close the gap and win back ball.
Venter showed her strength under the high ball with a number of takes over the top of Bruce.
Austin was just as impressive with her baseline drives down the other end as Bueta opened the space for her attacking partner.
It was goal for goal in the third, as South Africa’s defensive duo of Phumza Maweni and Nicola Smith really made the Diamonds earn their goals.
Young Elmere van der Berg held her own out at goal attack as the SPAR Proteas only lost the third term by three goals.
By the final change, it was Australia up 56-37.
Cara Koenen came on as goal shooter as the Bueta-Austin combo struggled for the same fluency that Wood provided.
Down the defensive end, Sarah Klau came on for her first minutes, pushing Bruce to GD while Weston returned to the court at WD.
Fatigue started to kick in for both teams as the they traded uncharacteristic turnovers.
Watson’s bad hands were saved by an Austin intercept – just Australia’s sixth for the match.
But the scoring rate was clearly slowing for the Aussies, after 40 goals in the opening half.
It took another brilliant Bruce tip, into the hands of partner Klau to spark another run for Australia.
Venter went to the bench, allowing young Nichole Taljaard her first run for the night, and the replacement for Lenize Potgieter made no mistake.
Bruce headed to the bench as Aryang returned to the action with less than four minutes remaining, and she got immediately involved with her first rebound of the night.
The Diamonds used the dying minutes to push out their lead, before taking the win 74-49.
Bueta finished with 34/34 while Koenen had 14/14 in her one quarter.
Wood (14 goals at 100%) and Austin (12 goals at 86%) rounded out the shooting stats.