Michael Burgess

Michael Burgess is the football and rugby league writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Netball: Diamonds are determined to restore lustre

Photo / Getty Images
Photo / Getty Images

We just might be witnessing some Advanced Australian Fear, a netballing rarity down the years.

It's always dangerous to write off Australia in any sporting pursuit but there is no doubt the Diamonds have lost some of their renowned sparkle.

Lisa Alexander's side are under the microscope like never before, ahead of tonight's second Constellation Cup test at the Vector Arena.

They have lost their last five test matches, including a 3-0 whitewash at the hands of England in January. The retirement of former captain Natalie von Bertouch has hurt more than anyone expected and Alexander has yet to settle on her top line-up.

They mounted a strong comeback towards the end of last Sunday's test but were dominated for long periods, not helped by a crippling penalty count. They have previously struggled in Auckland, with only five wins from 14 matches in the Queen City.

"This game is like a gold medal match for us, we have to win it and get back into the winning mentality," says Alexander of tonight's game.

Perhaps the most disturbing sign for Australian fans in the first test was the sight of their captain Laura Geitz getting hooked in the second half - a concession that Australia needed something different.

"When [the] captain gets subbed off you know you have got the upper hand," says Silver Fern Maria Tutaia. "As a Kiwi seeing the Aussie skipper getting subbed off - well that's great."

Expect a closer contest tonight. Caitlin Bassett showed last Sunday she is almost impossible to stop in the circle and will be key for Australia.

"The players have to find that winning recipe but it's going to be a difficult challenge," says Alexander. "We know we've got our backs to the wall and have to win this game."

- NZ Herald

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