Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald's chief sports reporter

Umpires under scrutiny after spiteful end to netball series

Caitlin Bassett of Australia receives a pass during the final Constellation Cup test match. Photosport
Caitlin Bassett of Australia receives a pass during the final Constellation Cup test match. Photosport

The standard of international netball umpiring is once again in the spotlight following a spiteful end to the Constellation Cup last night.

The Diamonds wrapped up the series 3-1 in Invercargill, edging out the Silver Ferns 49-45 in a low-scoring slug fest. After a fairly brutal clash in game three in Auckland, the physicality was ramped up another level last night, as both sides showed a hunger and desperation to win.

Umpires Jackie Mizon (England) and Theresa Prince (South Africa) attempted to rein in the aggression, handing out cautions late in the match like they were fliers for a concert.

Australian midcourter Kim Ravaillion, who was also warned in Auckland, was the first to be spoken to by the umpires, while defender Sharni Layton was also put on an official caution. Ferns skipper Katrina Grant and Shannon Francois then had their names added to the naughty list late in the fourth period.

But Silver Ferns coach Janine Southby believes the umpires still let a lot of indiscretions go unpunished, which saw the game descend into an ill-heated affair as players became frustrated with the attention they were copping.

"We don't want to see players sent off, but there is a system in place to keep things skillful. Some of the stuff that wasn't being picked up was probably a bit more concerning," said Southby.

"I think it was fairly physical out there and it was probably another level again and there were times when you were certainly left wondering why it wasn't being blown."

Heading into the final test, Southby called for the umpires to crack down on deliberate infringements having felt some of defensive strategies employed by the Australians were questionable.

She was particularly frustrated by the less than subtle work going on from the circle edge defence, with players attempting to slow quick delivery of ball into the Ferns shooting circle by deliberately obstructing, blocking and smothering players.

The Australians were, nevertheless, heavily punished in the penalty count in that contest, copping 76 penalties - 31 of those against Ravaillion and her midcourt partner Gabi Simpson - to New Zealand's 57.

Last night the penalty count was reversed, with the Diamonds pinged 53 times to the Ferns 70, yet it was the Australian players that were the first to have penalties escalated.

Diamonds coach Lisa Alexander said she was happy to have cut the overall penalty count in the final test, but was disappointed some individuals involved the umpires too much.

"We ended up with less penalties in this game, which was interesting from my point of view," said Alexander.

"That was good in terms of us tidying up, I think the ones we did do I think were a bit too - well, it drew attention. That's what we've just got to get right."

- NZ Herald

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