Diamonds to make opening netball statement
While itching to unleash upon the old enemy, the Diamonds know victory over the Silver Ferns on Sunday will be more likely if they set the tone for their world title defence first.
That means making a statement against Trinidad and Tobago.
On Friday night the Calypso Girls will present the first hurdle for Australia to jump in their bid for a Netball World Cup hat-trick, and the hosts aren’t letting their world No.10 label fool them.
Trinidad and Tobago, whose towering charges are among the tournament’s tallest, have a winning record of 16 per cent against the Aussies, which is actually better than any other team apart from New Zealand (37 per cent).
Australia haven’t faced them at a world championships since 2007 in Auckland, though they did deliver emphatic thumpings at both the 2010 and 2014 Commonwealth Games.
Coach Lisa Alexander has encouraged her players not to hold back against their Caribbean counterparts, saying she wants to see the same intensity and hunger they plan to bring to the court against the Kiwis.
“I think it’s really important because it just helps that confidence within the group to continue in the manner that we have been, and to see that continuation of improvement from the training court,” she said.
Another part of Alexander’s reasoning is her desire to cement a starting line-up that will purr most against their Kiwi arch-rivals.
While she wouldn’t reveal which seven will start, the coach reiterated her intention to experiment with combinations throughout both the opener and the Diamonds’ second pool match with ninth-ranked Barbados on Saturday.
“It’s always intelligence and seeing those really subtle connections together, combinations that you’re looking for as a coach, and whether things are just humming,” she said.
“It’s kind of hard to describe it as a particular skill or tactic that you’re looking for but it’s just that ability to know that’s what’s working for us.
“If there’s some really good strong connection together, that might be what we need against New Zealand.”
For captain Laura Geitz and her teammates, the world titles finally became real on Thursday afternoon when the 12 players underwent their final training session at Olympic Park.
“I think when you’ve still got a couple of training sessions up your sleeve it’s hard not to get too excited about what’s ahead,” Geitz said.
“But I think now the girls are starting to really feel the vibe and the energy that’s floating around and seeing the opposition teams as well.
“Everyone’s well aware tomorrow’s kick-off day.”