A senior international netball official is predicting the Silver Ferns will not feature in next year's Commonwealth Games final.
Lindy Murphy, a long-serving administrator in Australia and the technical delegate for the International Netball Federation, today tipped it will be Australia and England battling it out for gold in the tournament finale.
The pools for the April tournament on the Gold Coast were confirmed earlier today, with the world no.2 ranked New Zealand side and third-ranked English team put in pool B, alongside Malawi, Wales, Scotland and Uganda. Pool A features matches between top-ranked host nation Australia, Jamaica, South Africa, Barbados, Fiji and Northern Ireland during the preliminary rounds.
Murphy believes the tournament could produce some upsets, predicting England will top pool B, while world number four Jamaica will miss out on the semifinals altogether.
"I'm going to go out on a limb here and tip an Australia v England gold medal match, and it will either be South Africa or Malawi that play out against New Zealand for the bronze," said Murphy.
England blew a golden opportunity to make the final of the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, failing to put away a severely depleted Ferns line-up. Despite three of the New Zealand shooters carrying injuries, the Ferns managed to battle to a one-goal win over England and book their place in the gold medal match. They were comprehensively outplayed by Australia in the final, suffering an 18-goal loss.
Since netball was first introduced to the Commonwealth Games format in 1998, all five finals have been transtasman affairs, fuelling criticism over the competitiveness of the international game.
Murphy has tipped next year's Games on the Gold Coast will produce some fascinating battles, with new world powers emerging.
"There's going to be great contests between those teams and some terrific rivalries between the European teams and the African teams. Watch out for that Malawi v Uganda game - that's going to be exceptional."
"The reason [Uganda] have qualified for these games is their three fantastic wins over Malawi in the African Championships earlier on in the year, which gave them enough ranking points to qualify."
Star defender Laura Geitz, who led Australia to gold in Glasgow, believes there will be some hurdles for the Diamonds in pool play.
"It's really exciting to know the nations we will be taking on during the preliminary matches," she said.
"There is going to be some tough competition during the preliminaries with the likes of Glasgow 2014 bronze medallists Jamaica and South Africa in our pool.
"I know everyone involved in Australian netball is looking forward to the prospect of defending our gold medal on our home court."
Geitz hasn't played for the Diamonds since the 2015 season, having taken time away from the sport for the birth of her first child. She plans to return to top-level netball next season having signed with the Queensland Firebirds, but her international future remains unclear.
Commonwealth Games pools
Pool A: Australia, Jamaica, South Africa, Barbados, Fiji, Northern Ireland.
Pool B: New Zealand, England, Malawi, Wales, Scotland, Uganda.