Netball: One-way win leaves Plummer with questions

Australia ramped up their world netball championship title bid here today, totally monstering a hapless Cook Islands 90-22 in a one-way quarterfinal, and leaving Australian coach Norma Plummer wondering about the tournament's structure.

While the result was always a foregone conclusion, the manner of Australia's destruction of a valiant but ultimately doomed Cook Islands left Plummer asking questions.

"I would have expected going into the top eight we would have had a harder game," she said after today's match.

"I really think the draw needs to be looked at, so the top four get to play one another and we have a competition that's extending everyone and the true winner would come out of that."

Plummer said it was possible the Cooks were looking at conserving energy and players for tomorrow's play-off against Malawi in the fifth to eighth place play-offs.

Australian captain Liz Ellis said although a tougher match would have been better preparation going into tomorrow's semifinal against England, the team had achieved their goals from today's play.

"We set ourselves challenges all the way through, and what was really important for us today was that we were able to change the game up.

"It's not so important to rack the goals up as it is to make sure you're achieving what you want through the game."

Ellis said she as "pretty happy" with the team's performance.

"There are things that we could have done better, but it's hard to be too picky."

Australia were too strong in all areas of the court, from the defensive circle where Ellis was at her menacing best through the midcourt controlled by the von Bertouch sisters Laura and Natalie, to the shooting circle where Catherine Cox and Sue Pratley formed a lethal combination.

The Australians had 27 shots on goal in the first quarter, missing two while the Cook Islands' Anna Andrews and Patti Te Huna worked diligently but could only manage six from 10 attempts to give the Australians a 25-6 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Some suffocating midcourt defence saw a constant supply of ball into the Australian circle, whereas the Cook Islanders had to battle to clear every pass.

The second quarter was even harder work for the Cook Islanders as the Australians drove into the ball and picked up intercepts at will for their shooters to convert - Cox finished with statistics of 25 from 28 while Pratley sunk 23 from 25 for Australia to lead 46-12 at halftime.

Plummer again used her bench freely at the break, bringing on Sharelle McMahon at goal shoot and goal attack Natalie Medhurst, benching Natalie von Bertouch for Lauren Nourse and slotting Bianca Chatfield in at goal defence for Mo'onia Gerrard.

The changes ramped up the Australian effort even further, as the Cook Islands wilted in the third quarter, and could manage only two goals to Australia's 25.

Plummer again juggled her team in the last 15 minutes, with Chatfield moving to goal keep, Gerrard coming back at goal defence and Natalie von Bertouch returning to centre.


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