25 Aug 2017

New chapter beckons netball's greatest rivalry

3:15 pm on 25 August 2017

Sports Call - Time apart means already highly anticipated clashes between the Silver Ferns and Australia will carry even more intrigue when they meet next week.

Te Paea Selby-Rickit shoots over Clare McMeniman and Sharni Layton during the Constellation Cup netball match between the New Zealand Silver Ferns and the Australian Diamonds.

Te Paea Selby-Rickit shoots during last year's Constellation Cup between New Zealand and Australia. Photo: PhotoSport

The Diamonds and Ferns, number 1 and 2 in world netball respectively, have enjoyed a storied rivalry over the years and this is yet another chapter.

The axing of the trans-Tasman domestic competition last year makes the Silver Ferns upcoming international season more compelling.

When the two sides meet on 3rd September, it will be the first time in nine years that the players won't have competed in the months leading up to it.

The last time the two sides met was in January in South Africa, as part of the Quad Series.

The Diamonds won that game 57-50.

Since then the Ferns have added Whitney Souness and Monica Falkner to the side.

Souness only had a couple of ANZ games in 2015 before injury kept her out of last year's final edition of the trans-Tasman competition.

Falkner only gained her first elite netball contract this year, so will be an unknown quantity to the Diamonds.

During the 2008-2016 ANZ netball years, players on either side of the Tasman were able to benefit from having played against each other in the lead up to the international window.

Whitney Souness had an impressive season with the Pulse.

Pulse midcourter Whitney Souness is likely to get her first taste of Test netball during the Quad series. Photo: Photosport

While Test netball is always a different kettle of fish, it would offer some insights into key match-ups across the court.

There has been some concern that the Silver Ferns could go backwards as a result of the trans-Tasman split.

There is a risk that by not competing against the Australians regularly, the players will suffer from a lack of exposure to the Australian playing style and get left behind.

No doubt the speed with which the Australians play the game will come as a bit of a shock to the system.

But it goes both ways. The Diamonds too will have to recalibrate to our style, which is characterized by a free-flowing tempo on attack and zone defence.

There was a time when Australia really struggled with our zone defence, they didn't like it.

But over the course of the trans-Tasman competition their players got more exposure to it. At the same time New Zealand players were sometimes drawn into playing the Australian one-on-one style on defence.

New Zealand's new domestic competition has allowed the players freedom to play the local style.

It will be interesting to see how the Australians adapt to it.

Australia's glitzy Super Netball league was hailed as a huge success across the Tasman.

The New Zealand domestic competition unearthed some exciting young talent but there were a number of one sided results. The jury is very much still out here.

When two competitions stand alone it is difficult to tell how successful they are without any crossover.

This will be the first real test of that.

Australia has won five of the last six contests between the sides and Silver Ferns coach Janine Southby will be looking for a significant improvement on that win/loss ratio.

At the same time it would be simplistic to conclude that the trans-Tasman split has been detrimental to New Zealand if the Silver Ferns don't lift their results against Australia this year.

The competition needs to be given time and it's not the only part of the equation.

The sheer depth in Australian netball is a common denominator that has served the Diamonds well and will continue to do so in the foreseeable future.

The Ferns open their campaign against South Africa in Brisbane tomorrow night.

  • The Ferns open their season with the Quad series, which involves Australia, England, and South Africa.
  • The Ferns then host England in the three-Test Taini Jamison Trophy series.
  • In October the Ferns play four Tests against Australia in the Constellation Cup.

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