The Diamonds’ Commonwealth Games preparations have received a boost with the announcement Australia will play a quad series in January featuring four of the top-five ranked netball nations in the world.
The series featuring world no.1 Australia, New Zealand (2), England (3) and South Africa (5), will be held in London from January 16-20 and mark the Diamonds’ first internationals in almost a year.
Border restrictions due to Covid forced the cancellation of the Constellation Cup against the Silver Ferns and Test series against England’s Roses earlier this year, leaving the Diamonds with the real possibility of no international play for almost 18 months leading into one of the biggest tournaments on the world netball calendar.
But ongoing work between governing bodies in the countries involved in the series, as well as Australia’s relaxed quarantine regulations for fully vaccinated travellers, will allow the players to travel to the tournament and return with no disruption ahead of the Super Netball season, which starts early next year to accommodate Commonwealth Games preparations.
Diamonds coach Stacey Marinkovich said having internationals locked in was a relief and the fact the series was in England allowed a full trial run ahead of the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham six months later.
“Having had dangled that we’d be playing international competition for a little while now, and it not coming through for different reasons, was difficult,” Marinkovich said of the cancelled series against the Silver Ferns and Roses.
“But to know that we’ve got this locked in and to be playing the quality of opposition we are, really gives us the opportunity to see how the things we did in our last camp transfer against opposition that is different to the way in which we play.
“And playing over in England is a great opportunity going into a Comm Games and it gives us a real practice in terms of the environment and the atmosphere.”
With funding support from Commonwealth Games Australia, the Diamonds will take a full squad of 15 players for the four-match series – a preliminary round-robin against the Ferns, Roses and Proteas and final – either the quad series title decider or the third-place playoff.
Despite missing international matches, Marinkovich said the Diamonds had bedded down a style of play while in camp on the Sunshine Coast recently – a time that was meant to be preparation for and three Tests against the Roses.
Having had that time to prepare so intricately with a new coach and several young players “might be a blessing in disguise”, Marinkovich said.
“We won’t know until we actually go over and perform,” she said.
“But we needed to really dig down deep as to where we think we’re vulnerable and come up with ways in which – if, in the worst-case scenario we weren’t able to get any international competition – we were really confident that our brand would come and match up against any style.
“I think we’ll go in (to the quad series) with some real clarity around what we want to achieve while we’re away and make sure that we’ve got some real clarity around the roles that people have got to play out on court.
“Win-loss is obviously one measure, but it’s not the only one on this particular tour.
“It’s multifaceted and we’ve got to look at the program holistically to make sure we understand where the growth’s got to be made.”
The series, which starts for the Diamonds with a clash against the Silver Ferns on January 16, will be broadcast live on Fox Sports, through Foxtel and Kayo Freebies, the new home of netball.
Netball Quad Series fixture
January 16 – Diamonds v New Zealand 3:15am AEDT
January 17 – Diamonds v South Africa 1am AEDT
January 19 – Diamonds v England 4:30am AEDT
January 20 – Finals: 3rd v 4th 4:30am AEDT; 1st v 2nd 6:30am AEDT
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