The Australian Diamonds have finished strongly against the New Zealand Silver Ferns in the final match of the Constellation Cup, retaining the prestigious trophy after defeating the away side 53-46 in a sold-out Perth RAC Arena on Sunday.
Melbourne Vixens’ Liz Watson, Caitlin Thwaites, Jo Weston and the most recent call-up, Tegan Philip all played a pivotal role in the Diamonds’ campaign across the four gruelling games. With under six goals separating the two teams in each encounter, the rivalry is still well and truly alive after three weeks of impressive battles.
Diamonds head coach, Lisa Alexander, highlighted after the final game that it was the team’s belief that really drove them to retain the cup.
“The pressure over the past couple of weeks has been driven by this group believing how good they were, and we finally saw that [today],” Alexander said.
“I just had that feeling that they weren’t going to let it slip.
“They just really dug in deep and I think they did a fantastic job.”
Earlier this week, Vixens’ star-shooter and veteran Diamond, Caitlin Thwaites, announced her retirement from international netball, with Sunday being her 55th and final test cap in the green and gold.
While it was unknown whether Thwaites would win some court-time to farewell her time in the Diamonds’ dress – with her fellow goal shooter and Australian captain, Caitlin Bassett, playing in her milestone 100th game - Thwaites came on in the third quarter and showed why her career in the green and gold had spanned the best part of a decade, finishing with 86% shooting accuracy.
Speaking after the game, Caitlin highlighted the level of support she had received since announcing her retirement and looks forward to celebrating the occasion once she heads home.
“It’s been a bit of a build up this week, so I’m just very grateful to have been able to have played [for Australia] once, let alone fifty-five times,” Thwaites said.
“This team has been a really special part of my life and I hope I’ve had a bit of an influence on the team just as much as they have had on me.
“I’m very happy and excited to celebrate, and also really excited to see what’s happening in the future for this group.
“We’ve got a really young team, minus Caitlin Basset (laughs), and having these tough battles against teams like New Zealand, the girls are only going to grow and get so much bigger and better and I’m really excited to see what the future holds.”
With some inspiring words from New Zealand captain Laura Langman post-game and an immense amount of support online, the Vixens’ off-season will be a time for reflection for Thwaites.
“I’ve had a few emotional teary moments over the past few days, but that is just generally me, I cry at the drop of a hat.
“I think in the next couple of weeks I’ll have a bit of time to reflect. It’s been so nice and really overwhelming to see how much support I’ve been given.
“I’ve had to kind of put my blinkers on because we’ve had a job to do, so I’ve tried not to let the emotions take over too much.
“I really wanted to get out there and do this with the team today.”
In discussing her relationship with Bassett, it was evident she had played a key role in Thwaites’ game development as a Diamond.
“Bass and I have had such a great relationship in terms of pushing each other. I know I’ve been nipping at her heels for quite a while, so I hope that has kind of inspired her and pushed her on to get better.
“I know that has been the case for me, to be pushing and trying to stick my hand up and make it really hard for Lisa to be able to make that decision.
“But I think that’s a great thing for the team, to be putting our best out there and challenging each other and the team reaps the rewards of that.”
The Australian Diamonds levelled the series in the final game, with both the Diamonds and Silver Ferns taking away two wins each.
Game 1: 53 (NZ) v 52 (AUS)
Game 2: 42 (NZ) v 48 (AUS)
Game 3: 53 (AUS) v 54 (NZ)
Game 4: 53 (AUS) v 46 (NZ)