Netball: Aussies bulldoze young pretenders (+ photos)

By Suzanne McFadden

Former Silver Fern Linda Vagana discovered just how cruel coaching can be as her promise-laden Samoan side were bulldozed 82-26 by the slick Australians in their opening match of the world championships last night.

Vagana's debut as a world championship coach was frustrating, she admitted afterwards, but she promised Samoa would bounce back in their game against Scotland today in their quest to finish in the top five in Auckland.

Australia showed off the seemingly bottomless depth of their bench against the Samoans, never missing a beat at every player change. Their final-quarter line-up looked like the future of Australian netball.

With strong vocal support from the Auckland Samoan community in the crowd, the Samoans started with huge promise, and led Australia 5-4 after five minutes.

Samoa goalkeep Monalisa Tofilau pushed Australian shooter Catherine Cox right to the backline and young goal defence Gerardine Solia - the third sister in the Solia family to represent Samoa - tried valiantly to stop crafty goal attack Sharelle McMahon charging straight through to the post.

The Samoan defence were many times rewarded for their efforts to repossess the ball from the Australian attack, but when they succeeded Samoa repeatedly gave it back in the midcourt.

It was a huge ask to find any path through the full-press Australian defence - wing defence Selina Gilsenan and centre Natalie von Bertouch were all-encroaching, closing down the centre third and grabbing at every ball.

Samoan goal shoot Catherine Latu, one of the top shooters in this year's National Bank Cup playing for the Force, was strong on her feet, taking well-fed ball from Frances Solia.

But she was uncertain under the hoop, clearly rattled by legendary Australian goal keep Liz Ellis.

When Cox left the court at halftime, the Australians leading 38-13, her replacement Natalie Medhurst immediately fell into synchronicity with McMahon.

Their shots at goal were virtually uncontested in the third quarter, establishing a monumental 61-17 lead.

Ellis expected the Samoans to be strong and to stick with her side through the match, and was only surprised by the gulf of the score at the end of the match.

"I looked at our [final] line-up and thought, Oh my God, they are so young!"' Ellis said.

Vagana admitted her team lost their rhythm after the first quarter, and were guilty of making too many unforced errors.

Samoa will hang on to their hopes of finishing in the top five at these world champs - a win against 15th ranked Scotland today will keep them in the running for a quarterfinal spot.

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