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Diamonds golden in final international outing before Games
The Australian Diamonds will go to next year’s Commonwealth Games on the back of six consecutive victories after a hard-fought 64-37 win over the Malawi Queens at the Gold Coast Convention & Exhibition Centre on Saturday.
The Diamonds wrapped up the international year undefeated on home soil and full of confidence following their last outing in the green and gold before next year’s Games in Glasgow.
Three days after making her international debut, Paige Hadley was handed her first start in the green and gold in centre, paired in the mid-court with Sharni Layton at wing defence and Kimberlee Green at wing attack.
Reeling from a 49-goal defeat in Wollongong on Wednesday night, Malawi came out fired up and full of intensity, playing with confidence in attack and a strong physical presence in defence.
The visitors made a statement in the first quarter as Mwai Kumwenda, Malawi’s first professional netballer after signing with the ANZ Championship’s Tactix for next season, and Joyce Mvula combined well in the shooting circle.
The Australians took a narrow 13-12 lead into quarter-time after Malawi temporarily held the lead courtesy of five straight goals late in the first term.
The hosts began to find their feet in the second quarter, moving through the midcourt with the speed and accuracy that saw them reclaim the Constellation Cup title against New Zealand last week.
Kumwenda continued to star in the Queens’ attacking circle, finishing the game with 25 goals goals from 28 attempts, while Diamonds shooter Caitlin Bassett dealt with plenty of physical pressure under the post, scoring 11 of Australia’s 14 goals in the second term.
Leading 28-20 at half-time, Diamonds coach Lisa Alexander again made wholesale changes at the main break in attack with Caitlin Thwaites and Natalie Medhurst assuming the shooting responsibilities while Renae Hallinan came off the bench to wing defence.
The third-quarter brought little reprieve for either side as the battle for position and possession continued.
Malawi was content to keep ball in hand, showing patience and a willingness to pass backwards in a bid to maintain possession – often resulting in a game of keepings-off from the Australians.
Despite the changes, the Australians maintained their scoring rate after half-time to lead 43-30 at three-quarter time.
An Australian victory was put beyond doubt in the final quarter as they held Malawi to a game-low seven goals for the quarter to finish 27-goal winners.
Australia’s Paige Hadley, in just her second game for the Diamonds was named Most Valuable Player.