15 Aug 2019

Netball: Australian Diamonds conjuring Wallabies magic

2:58 pm on 15 August 2019

The Constellation Cup is the Bledisloe Cup of netball except Australia dominate the contest and coach Lisa Alexander wants to keep it that way.

Australian Diamonds coach Lisa Alexander

Australian Diamonds coach Lisa Alexander Photo: Photosport Ltd 2016 www.Photosport.nz

Alexander, Netball Australia's most capped coach, is searching for the same magic shown by the Wallabies ahead of the Constellation Cup in October.

A good friend of Australian rugby coach Michael Cheika, Alexander commends the Wallabies for their historic 47-26 win over the All Blacks and likes to think that some of it is due to her influence.

The Wallabies coaching staff attend Diamonds' training sessions, while Alexander attends Wallabies' practices comparing notes - most recently on a coaching level to lend support when dealing with the backlash after unsuccessful results.

"We try to support each other from a far and send each other encouraging text messages and say well done," Alexander said.

"I know that Michael has taken great interest in the Diamonds as I take great interest in the Wallabies.

"We try to encourage each other in a job which is at times very unforgiving."

The coach who has led the Diamonds for eight years prides herself on being a "passionate Wallabies fan" and says she and Cheika understand each other's landscapes a lot.

Alexander sent her 'mate' Cheika a message after the Wallabies win over the All Blacks and while he didn't tell her too much hopes he at least had time to celebrate.

"I certainly did (send him a message) and he sent me back the message he has told everyone that all they've done is bought a ticket to Eden Park.

"Michael knows that it's a great win but it's only a step in the road toward the World Cup and that's the ultimate goal - to win that world cup," Alexander said.

It's an attitude Alexander herself took to the recent Netball World Cup in Liverpool.

The result in the final didn't go her way forcing Alexander to strongly reflect on the 51-52 loss to the Silver Ferns, as well as the Commonwealth Games gold medal loss to England to rectify it.

Australian Diamonds preparing to receive silver medal after 2019 NWC final loss to Silver Ferns

Australian Diamonds preparing to receive silver medal after 2019 NWC final loss to Silver Ferns Photo: © SWpix.com (t/a Photography Hub Ltd)

A review of their World Cup campaign has taught Alexander that changes need to be made, and it could be a matter of taking a page from Silver Ferns coach Noeline Taurua's book.

She courted one of the most inexperienced teams at the pinnacle event with only captain Caitlin Bassett playing in the tournament before in 2015.

Alexander admired Taurua's well-roundedness of her selection admitting a lot can be said for having an experienced team and that wisdom in her defensive end could've made all the difference.

"We may need to make a couple of tweaks. Experience wise I don't think that was an excuse for us not coming away with the win however it's a factor that we need to acknowledge.

"If we had all the athletes available for that previous cycle we probably would've still had a Laura Geitz and a Sharni Layton which would have given us a bit more defensive experience.I'm really confident though in the athletes our system produces and the experience they gain on the Super Netball court is enormous... against internationals week in week out," she said.

Former Australian defenders Laura Geitz (Middle) and Sharni Layton (Right) at the 2015 Netball World Cup

Former Australian defenders Laura Geitz (Middle) and Sharni Layton (Right) at the 2015 Netball World Cup Photo: Photosport Ltd 2015 www.photosport.nz

The recent results for Australia mean an added pressure for the side who have held the Constellation Cup trophy for the past six years.

Game two of the series will also add an extra element of importance for Alexander - it'll be her 100th Test match as the Diamond's head coach.

"You are never happy losing finals by one goal... it always makes you think what changes you could've made, could you have done things better, that's been key to my longevity.

"I am continuously learning, and I know I don't know it all and I can get better. I never think of it being my 99th test as it feels like the first test every time," she said.

It's her professional coaching perspective that has this Wallabies fan leaning toward an All Blacks victory this weekend, a hope her side can live up to in October.

"History is going to be pretty hard to go against for the Wallabies so I will have to choose the All Blacks to hit back hard and probably by five points."