The Diamonds were in sparkling form again, sweeping aside Malawi 74-25 as the Queens were restricted to their lowest ever World Cup score.
Australia coach Lisa Alexander made a number of changes to her starting line-up as the Diamonds faced their fifth game in five days. Gretel Tippett started at goal attack, Liz Watson at centre and Jamie-Lee Price at wing defence as the holders looked to extend their impressive start to the tournament.
Malawi came into the game off the back of three successive wins, including a hard-fought, 47-43 triumph over Northern Ireland yesterday. Joyce Mvula started on the bench, with Alinafe Kamwala and Sindi Simtowe in the shooting positions for the Queens.
However they were starved of opportunities in a first quarter which highlighted the dynamic nature of the holders’ play. Caitlin Bassett and Gretel Tippett were flawless throughout the first 15 minutes, both shooting at 100% while also producing moments of fantastic interplay to work shooting chances for each other.
Their quality was reflected throughout the court, with the Diamonds first to pounce on anything, harrying Malawi and forcing frequent turnovers of possession as they worked the ball down the court with speed and precision to their shooters, who quickly accumulated a commanding lead – 21-2 at the end of the first quarter.
Jane Chimaliro came off the bench at goal attack at the start of the second quarter, and immediately made an impact as Malawi matched their total from the entire first quarter in the opening minutes of the second.
They traded goals with the Diamonds in the early stages, but despite Tippett recording the Australians’ first unsuccessful attempt on goal in the match two minutes into the second quarter, they didn’t take long to again get a firm grip on proceedings.
The lead stretched out to beyond 30 as the clinical Diamonds displayed their quality all over the court, and exploited the spaces that were starting to appear as the Malawians struggled to keep a lid on the quality and quantity of Australia’s attacks.
By contrast, the injured Mvula was proving to be a big miss in the opposite shooting circle, with the Malawian shooters converting just five of the 12 shooting opportunities they created in the entire first half.
That fifth Malawian goal, scored by Kamwala, drew cheers from the neutrals in the crowd, but it wouldn’t have brought too much comfort to the Queens, who went in at half time trailing 41-5.
Alexander elected to make changes in both shooting positions for the third quarter, with Caitlin Thwaites and Steph Wood coming on. Any question of those changes disrupting the Diamonds’ rhythm were soon quashed though, as the pairing picked up exactly where their team-mates had left off in front of goal.
At the other end though, Malawi were far better, and their shooting combination of Simtowe and Chimaliro began to find the net with regularity as they benefited from more fluid movement and build-up play.
In what was a quarter of two halves, the score had moved competitively along to 54-13 before an excellent interception by Sarah Klau triggered another period of Australian dominance.
Wood and Thwaites continued to link up well as the Diamonds produced yet more brilliance, with both replacement shooters at 100% as the third quarter ended 61-14.
The crowd-pleasing Malawian revival continued into the fourth quarter however, as an even opening few minutes culminated in the Queens turning possession over and converting their opportunity to lead in a quarter for the first time in the match.
Thwaites and Wood were relentless though, both continuing their 100% record in front of goal as the lead stretched out to 50 for the first time, at 70-20 midway through the final quarter.
The Queens didn’t let that margin grow, and delighted the neutrals in the crowd by finishing with a flourish, scoring the last two goals of the game, which ended 74-25.
The win moves Australia on to eight points, level at the top of Group F with New Zealand. The two nations meet on Thursday morning, in the game which will decide the group winners.
Australia’s Steph Wood said:
“Our first half was really strong, then Malawi came out in that second half and did a few things differently. I think we adjusted pretty well, and now we’ll go back and prepare for New Zealand.”
The Diamonds have been in relentless form so far, recording four convincing wins in the opening four days of action in Liverpool.
They – and Tippett – were free-scoring again today as they passed 90 goals for the second game in succession, beating Barbados 91-22.
Tippett says that the relaxed mood in the camp is benefiting the team on court.
“The whole experience is fun. For me personally, I think that if I’m having fun, then I’m relaxed and I’m playing my best game, so I try to bring that on to court.”
The 26-year-old admitted that the Diamonds have been keeping an eye on their rivals as the early stages of the tournament have progressed, but says that other events across the sporting summer have gripped their attention.
“We’ve actually been watching quite a bit of Wimbledon and the cricket!” she said. “But of course, we’re looking at the other teams – we watched South Africa beat Jamaica which was super intense, with both teams playing at a really high level, so we know we’ve got our work cut out.
“Barbados today were a great team to play, Zimbabwe were a test for us and Malawi tomorrow will see us play against another different style. It’s getting to the really exciting end of the tournament now, but we’ll continue to take it one game at a time.”
The meeting was the fifth time the sides had faced off in World Cup history, with Australia winning the previous four, including in the last tournament in 2015.
The Diamonds were heavy favourites entering the game after they topped Group A in Preliminaries stage one, whilst Barbados finished third in Group B after only picking up one victory.
After a ruthless 99-24 victory over Sri Lanka yesterday, Australia were in a similar mood at the beginning of this contest as they raced into a 3-0 lead, but they were pegged back as the Bajan Gems scored the next two goals.
Despite a promising shooting start for Shonica Wharton and Sheniqua Thomas, Barbados began to struggle to make their shots with Thomas converting just one of her next four goal attempts.
Australia were having no such problems, and Caitlin Bassett in particular had a strong opening quarter as she shot at 100%. That was backed up by Steph Wood who added eight goals as the Diamonds finished the quarter with a 23-5 lead.
Despite Barbados scoring the first goal of the second period, the Diamonds registered the next 21 goals without reply to build on their lead. Bassett and Wood continued to mount up the goals and Wood in particular showcased her shooting range.
Barbados were finding it difficult to progress the ball through the thirds as Australia suffocated them defensively, limiting their space. Wharton was reduced to a spectator for large parts as the Diamonds harassed and harried the Bajan Gems, cutting off the supply to the Barbados goal shooter.
Their goal drought lasted nearly 12 minutes before Wharton scored their second and final goal of the quarter as Australia’s advantage grew to 46-7 at half time.
Bassett was replaced at half time by Caitlin Thwaites, which earned the goal shooter her 50th international cap, and she followed up her impressive shooting performance against Sri Lanka by quickly getting off the mark, making her first two goal attempts in the early exchanges of the quarter.
The third quarter continued with more Australian dominance, but Barbados were creating more scoring opportunities for themselves as Wharton scored her first three goal attempts of the period. The Bajan Gems goal shooter finished with eight goals in the quarter – in what was her side’s highest-scoring period of the match.
Australia, however, kept the scoreboard ticking and increased their lead. Clinical shooting from both Thwaites and fellow substitute Gretel Tippett saw the pair score all 25 of their goal attempts in the quarter as the Diamonds stretched their lead to 71-15.
In the fourth, Australia continued to showcase their attacking flair as they racked up the goals. Barbados started the period brightly themselves as Wharton continued to take her shooting opportunities, but Australia were too strong and romped to their fourth consecutive victory of the tournament.
The result puts Australia in a great position to finish in the top two of Group F and advance to the final four of the competition. Next up for Barbados is Zimbabwe which will give Sandra Bruce-Small’s side an opportunity to pick up their second victory of the tournament.
After earning her 50th international cap, Australia’s Caitlin Thwaites said:
“It’s awesome. I guess you don’t really play for those kind of things but it’s really nice to have been around long enough to have done that.
“I think we are building along the tournament. We’ve had some key learnings from our opponents already and another one today. It seems like it’s a bit of a marathon, so we are building in terms of opponents. It is only going to get harder as the week goes on.
“It is great to be able to test out some of those different combinations at the moment too; seeing the ones that are really gelling and being able to get a lot of time in everybody.”
Thwaites starred in the shooting circle as the Diamonds wrapped up a convincing 99-24 victory over Sri Lanka today, topping their preliminaries stage one group in the process.
With the tournament now moving into its next phase, Thwaites emphasised the importance of conserving energy and managing games in the right way.
“Tournament play is a different beast in itself. As we progress through the stages, we’re going to come up against some tougher opposition.
“We’re going to end up against some bigger bodies and in some tougher physical fights, so it’s a matter of us being able to deal with that in a smart way.
“In the tournament, we don’t want to have to be getting into a massive physical battle and then having to back that up the next day. For us to be able to use our smarts and not put ourselves in those tussles (will be important).”
Despite the crushing nature of today’s win, Thwaites believes that Australia can still learn lessons from the Group A encounter.
“It was tough going out there. We didn’t really know what to expect going out, so it was a real challenge for us to adapt. We haven’t had a lot of practice against Sri Lanka, so it was good to know we’ve got the ability to be able to adapt to what’s happening.
“In the first quarter, it took us a couple of minutes to find our rhythm – it was a timing thing. I think one of the things we try to do is work it really nicely, short and sharp to the circle edge and allow our skill on the angles of the ball to do the work.”
The Diamonds had already comfortably seen off both Northern Ireland and Zimbabwe over the course of the previous two days, but this was their largest margin of victory in the tournament so far as they flexed their attacking muscle, picking apart the Sri Lankan defence at will as the match progressed.
At this World Cup Australia – who fell just short of becoming the first team to score a century of goals in one game at the tournament so far – are still yet to lose a quarter, while Sri Lanka are yet to win one.
After a relatively slow start from Australia, who allowed Sri Lanka some early possession, goal shooter Caitlin Thwaites and goal attack Steph Wood – who were rested for yesterday’s win over Zimbabwe – began to take control of the game. Thwaites scored 13 times in the opening 15 minutes and Wood added another six.
Back in 1987, Australia recorded their best ever defensive record in a single World Cup fixture against Sri Lanka, conceding only three times.
Inside the opening quarter here, Sri Lanka had almost doubled that tally as they netted seven times, but the first quarter was a good marker for how the rest of the match was to pan out. Australia were by no means on top form, but eased through the game, keeping their opponents at arm’s length throughout.
Heading into the second period, Australia were keen to put the result beyond any doubt as they increased their attacking intensity and scored an impressive 27 times, conceding just eight in the process.
Australian goalkeeper Sarah Klau, who won her first cap on the opening day of the competition, did well to limit the chances that fell to Sri Lanka goal shooter Tharjini Sivalingam.
By the halfway mark, Sivalingam’s 100% record in front of the net in this game was still intact, but she had only been allowed to shoot on eight occasions.
At the other end, Australia netted 27 times to increase their lead in the game to 47-15, a 32-goal advantage.
After the interval, the Diamonds were able to cruise through to the finish line, scoring 28 times in the penultimate quarter, with attacking pairing Thwaites and Wood taking their conversion rate to an impressive 75 goals from 77 shots between them in the game as a whole.
By the final 15 minutes, Sri Lanka began to tire having been twisted and pulled all over the court by the clever and efficient interchanges and fluid movements of the Australians.
Thwaites and Wood ended the match having netted 99 from 101 – completing the entire 60-minute game on court.
Sri Lanka only had enough left in the tank to score twice as the match wound down, and Australia only further strengthened their position.
Australia join England and New Zealand as already-confirmed group winners, while Jamaica and South Africa will face-off in Group C to determine the final top-ranked side in the Preliminaries Stage One.
The current number one-ranked team in the world picked up from where they left off against Northern Ireland yesterday, as they took the lead early in the contest and never relinquished their advantage.
Buoyed by their fantastic support once again, Zimbabwe impressed in the first ever Netball World Cup meeting between the sides, but ultimately fell short of victory.
The Diamonds entered the tournament as the joint tallest team on average, and they made that advantage – as well as their greater experience – count against Zimbabwe, who are the smallest team at the World Cup, as they raced into an 8-2 lead after five minutes.
Zimbabwe recovered from their slow start and began to grow into the contest, creating more scoring opportunities that Joice Takaidza converted, finising the quarter with eight goals.
Australia continued to show their own attacking quality though and they led 18-9 at the end of the first quarter as Caitlin Bassett and Gretel Tippett combined to score all 18 of Australia’s goal attempts.
The Zim Gems raced out of the blocks in the second quarter and reduced the deficit to six goals, but Australia responded and increased their lead to 14 midway through the quarter.
As the second quarter wore on, the Diamonds’ experience began to show and at half-time they had extended their advantage to 21 goals as they led 39-18, limiting Zimbabwe to nine goals in the quarter again.
Zimbabwe replaced Takaidza and Ursula Ndlovu with Pauline Jani and Sharon Bwanali at half-time and it had a positive impact on the Zim Gems as the pair combined to score eight times in the opening period of the third quarter.
The back-and-forth action continued for the rest of the quarter as the Zim Gems recorded 13 goals in total, four more than in either of the first two quarters, but Australia remained on top as they extended their lead to 23.
It was a much improved start to the final quarter for Australia, as they built their lead. Their dominance continued and they outscored a tiring Zimbabwe team 19-6 to complete an impressive victory.
Australia will be hoping to secure their place at the top of Group A when they face Sri Lanka on Sunday afternoon, while Zimbabwe will be confident they can bounce back in their final group game against Northern Ireland tomorrow.
Australia’s Caitlin Bassett said:
“It was a physical match. The players that were out there felt it and it’s a good practice for us for later rounds.
“I think they took advantage of their smaller stature. They use a lot of bounce passes and got around the body really well which is something we had a talk about at half time, but it was hard to put the high ball in because they had really long reach.”
Zimbabwe’s Ndaizivei Madzikangava said:
“As a team we played very well. This is our first time at a World Cup. It was difficult for us, but we did very well. We can learn a lot of things. They are very fast and that made it difficult for us, but I think tomorrow we can do very well.”
The 24-year-old starred as Australia made the best possible start to the defence of their title, recording an 88-24 victory to top the early Group A table.
Klau said afterwards:
“It’s everything that I could have imagined. Standing there, during the national anthem, I got the goosebumps like I thought I would. It was such an incredible experience – it’s always been a dream of mine.
“For me, it’s about sticking to routine and not doing anything out of the box because that’s when I start to get nervous.”
The goal keeper claimed four interceptions – of the Diamonds’ total of eight – during the game.
“It didn’t feel like that!” she said afterwards. “I guess it’s credit to the girls all the way down the court. Transition has been an area for us that we’ve been working on and it’s great that it’s paid off.
“I’m super stoked that I was able to get those four intercepts on my debut. It’s pretty cool!”
Tomorrow will see the Australians take on Zimbabwe – the team whose raucous supporters have undoubtedly stolen the show so far on day one of their debut World Cup.
Klau said of the match-up:
“The crowd was awesome today. I saw a lot of green and gold in the crowd and a few familiar faces. That was really special.
“I think it’s interesting that there’s a two-court scenario. The Zimbabweans were very loud on the court next door – I just love that they are out there to have fun. You can tell they are just one big family. We’re lucky with our supporters too. They were amazing and we can take a lot from that.”
The Diamonds had won all five of the previous World Cup meetings between the two sides and from the off, their 100% record never looked in any danger.
They strode seven points into the lead inside five minutes before the Warriors, ranked eighth in the world, got themselves on to the scoresheet.
At the end of the first quarter, Australia led 24-7 with goal shooter Caitlin Bassett converting all 18 of her opportunities and goal attack Steph Wood equally as efficient with her six.
That efficiency from the Diamonds continued into the second period, as they pressed on in search of more goals.
Northern Ireland, though, improved in the second 15, as they scored eight times – once more than in the opening quarter – and limited Australia to 21, three fewer than they managed previously.
The gulf between the teams was clear, although Northern Ireland were trying their utmost to limit their opposition.
At the halfway mark, there was a 30-goal gap between the sides, with the score standing at 45-15 to the holders.
For the third quarter, Caitlin Thwaites and Gretel Tippett replaced Bassett and Wood respectively for Australia, and after a couple of minutes stoppage for Northern Ireland centre Caroline O’Hanlon to receive treatment after a heavy fall midway through the quarter, normal service resumed.
Northern Ireland notched three times in the quarter, but fell further behind as Australia increased their lead to 67-19. Substitute Thwaites converted 15 times from a possible 16, winning her battle against Northern Ireland goalkeeper Gemma Lawlor.
Australia already had the two points wrapped up prior to the fourth and final period, but still had time to convert another 21 times as they eased towards the final whistle, ending their scoring at 88.
The Diamonds, one of just four teams to have competed in every edition of the Netball World Cup, face Zimbabwe on Saturday morning as they seek a second successive victory.
Northern Ireland will look to get their first points of the tournament in their fixture versus Sri Lanka shortly afterwards.
Australia’s Sarah Klau, who made her international debut today, said:
“It’s everything that I could have imagined. Standing there, during the national anthem, I got the goosebumps like I thought I would. It was such an incredible experience – it’s always been a dream of mine.
“Having debuted now, I think that gives me a lot of confidence leading into the next few games. Hopefully I do alright.”
Northern Ireland coach Dan Ryan said:
“Your heart is in your mouth when you see a player of her (Caroline O’Hanlon’s) importance to our World Cup campaign get injured.
“She’s been assessed by the medical team and will continue to be assessed in the next couple of moments. I think everything should be okay, hopefully, but we just have to wait and see.”
INF world ranking: 1
World Cups played: 14
Highest World Cup finish: 1
Australia are synonymous with the Netball World Cup, having attended every tournament since its inception in 1963. The team have also won more World Cup titles than any other team – an incredible 11 out of a possible 14. Known as the Aussie Diamonds, the team are renowned for their strength on the court, fast passing and unmissable shooting. World number one, the Diamonds automatically qualified for this year’s World Cup and as defending champions are one of the favourites to lift the trophy in Liverpool.
Ones to watch
Aussie Diamonds’ captain, Caitlin Bassett has her friends to thank for getting her into the sport, as she followed them on to the court to join in the fun at school. Bassett now trains six times a week and plays the position of goal shooter for the team. The Vitality Netball World Cup will be Bassett’s third time representing Australia at netball’s pinnacle event having already competed and won at the 2011 and 2015 events. When C-Bass, as she is known to her friends, isn’t training or competing in netball, she is studying broadcast journalism or walking her giant Bernese mountain dog.
Stephanie Wood has been immersed in the world of netball from a young age. Her older sisters played the sport as children and anything they did, Stephanie wanted to be a part of. Wood currently plays in Australia’s domestic league as a goal attack for Sunshine Coast Lightning and has already experienced playing on the international stage when she competed at the 2018 Commonwealth Games. This year’s Vitality Netball World Cup will be her first flavour of competing on the world stage as she makes her debut World Cup appearance.
Liz Watson’s passion for netball began at primary school when she entered an inter-school sports competition. Now age 25, centre player Watson is considered one of the best players in the Suncorp Super Netball league. In 2018 she made the line-up for Australia’s team at the Commonwealth Games and her netballing prowess earnt her the Liz Ellis Diamond International Player of the Year award. All eyes will be on the centre when she steps on to the court to make her debut World Cup appearance in Liverpool.