Ian Chadband / AAP News
The Australian Diamonds have defeated South African in a commanding display to set up a Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games rematch with England in the final.
Australia’s Diamonds have surged into the final of the Quad Series to set up netball’s version of the Ashes, which will culminate in a mouth-watering final against their England hosts.
The Diamonds looked slick in a comprehensive 60-40 victory over South Africa in London on Sunday (Monday morning AEDT) less than 24 hours after an equally convincing triumph over world champions New Zealand at the Copper Box Arena.
Their second straight win has earned the holders a fascinating climax to the four-team tournament, with two games in two days against England, who pipped them agonisingly to take Commonwealth Games gold in 2018 and also won their last meeting in 2019.
As Australia and England, who defeated New Zealand 49-46 in the other Sunday match, have won both their matches, Wednesday’s (Thursday morning AEDT) final is assured.
But before then, they’ll have a dress rehearsal in Tuesday’s (Wednesday morning AEDT) last round-robin game, which will give Diamonds’ coach Stacey Marinkovich another chance to gauge the strength of what is looking a powerful new squad.
“I think playing England’s going be fantastic,” said Marinkovich, who’ll be facing England for the first time since she took over in August 2020.
“England have been playing some really classy netball, they’ve got depth and experience across the squad and it’s a challenge for everyone.
“We’re looking forward to stepping out against them because it’s been a long time.
“We were meant to play last year but couldn’t because of COVID, but the fact we can take that battle now is great for us and super exciting for international netball.”
Marinkovich was able to ring the changes after the 53-39 win over New Zealand, bringing in Maddy Turner and Kate Moloney into the starting seven, tinkering with positional changes and resting captain Liz Watson.
She also enjoyed giving a historic debut to 21-year-old Sunday Aryang, who became Diamond No.184 and the first African-born player to represent Australia.
Aryang came on five minutes before halftime and produced a fine performance alongside player of the match, the outstanding goalkeeper Courtney Bruce.
“It was crazy moment for me, kinda surreal, I wasn’t expecting it,” said the Ethiopian-born player, who moved to Australia with her family in 2002.
“I knew the debut would come one day but didn’t expect it at that time. It’s something that took some time to sink in but once I got out there, I just felt I belonged out there and it made it so much easier.”
She soon slotted in impressively alongside Bruce, who was impressed by her fellow west Australian.
“I’m so proud of her – I think I’ve celebrated more than she did. Lookout, that’s the beginning of a phenomenal career for Sunday,” Bruce said.
Bruce reckoned the Diamonds had been given a stern test by a South African outfit that came out fired up after a record Quad Series drubbing by England the previous day.
Yet though the Proteas, who have now never beaten Australia in 41 attempts, challenged impressively and kept their deficit to within four points (27-23) at the break, the Diamonds rang them ragged after the interval with their fluid movement.
Halftime replacement Sophie Garbin scored 18 of her 19 shots at goal and strike partner Gretel Bueta was excellent, despite missing three of her 31 shots, as Australia dominated the second half 33-17.