Australia take first game
A sensational last-second shot by Donnell Wallam sees the Diamonds take the first game. 55-54
A last minute lay up from Diamonds debutant Donnell Wallam gave Australia a dramatic late win in a fierce first contest of the series with the Vitality Roses.
Following impressive displays in the Uganda Series, Fran Williams and Funmi Fadoju stood out in the defensive end. At the same time, Eleanor Cardwell impressed in the shooting circle as the Vitality Roses were narrowly edged at the Newcastle Entertainment Centre.
This doesn’t hurt – this is class, the winning moment
This finish = Goosebumps forever. pic.twitter.com/GhBEa8Cxtn
— Origin Australian Diamonds (@AussieDiamonds) October 26, 2022
Making her 50th appearance, Eleanor Cardwell opened the scoring for the Vitality Roses to get the series underway. Brought into the team after winning Vitality Player of the Series against the Uganda She Cranes, Fran Williams picked up where she left off pulling off a great tip to earn an early turnover for her team. The early advantage lasted just a few moments though as Maddy Proud, a new face in the Australian Diamonds seven after making her debut during the Constellation Cup win against New Zealand, showed great energy to intercept the ball from Jade Clarke on the centre circle, getting the ball moving to Aussie skipper, Paige Hadley who fed Sophie Garbin under the post.
In the Diamonds defensive end, Sarah Klau showed her aerial dominance early on as she picked up a number of deflections to disrupt the service into Cardwell under the post. Despite this, little could separate the two sides early on as the score stayed level at the end of Q1.
Turning to the bench at half time, Vitality Roses Head Coach Jess Thirlby introduced Imogen Allison and Sophie Drakeford-Lewis into the game. After moving into the ascendancy at the end of the second quarter, the Diamonds picked up where they left off as the lead changed hands; going from one down to two up early in the second half. Thirlby made her third change midway through the quarter, as she drafted Funmi Fadoju in for her first appearance against the Australian Diamonds. The London Pulse defender made an immediate impact, jumping above Sophie Garbin to make an interception, just minutes into her introduction.
Into the second quarter and the Vitality Roses began to show some defensive steel and dominance in possession. Building on a good first quarter, Fran Williams produced a stellar second period, producing three superb intercepts as England turned gains into goals and took a four-goal lead. Diamonds Head Coach, Stacey Marinkovich turned to the bench and made a defensive tweak bringing Jo Weston on for vice-captain Courtney Bruce. In the middle of the court, Jade Clarke, who has made over 190 appearances for the
Vitality Roses, helped keep the score ticking over for her side, showing great energy and covering all areas of the court. But momentum swung back in favour of the hosts. As the game neared half time, as the Commonwealth Games gold medallists moved the ball quickly through the court and cut the lead to one before the break.
Turning to the bench at half time, Vitality Roses Head Coach Jess Thirlby introduced Imogen Allison and Sophie Drakeford-Lewis into the game.
After moving into the ascendancy at the end of the second quarter, the Diamonds picked up where they left off as the lead changed hands; going from one down to two up early in the second half. Thirlby made her third change midway through the quarter, as she drafted Funmi Fadoju in for her first appearance against the Australian Diamonds. And the London Pulse defender made an immediate impact, jumping above Sophie Garbin to make an interception, just minutes into her introduction.
At the other end, Eleanor Cardwell continued to show what the Australian crowd can look forward to in the Suncorp Super Netball league next season great composure, scoring from all parts of the circle. Sophie Drakeford-Lewis also combined well with the Adelaide Thunderbirds shooter and showed consistency under the post when called upon.
Just before the end, Fadoju demonstrated her fantastic reach once again as the 20-year-old continued to cause problems for the Diamonds shooters, keeping the margin to just two goals going into the final quarter.
Skipper Natalie Metcalf made way for Hannah Joseph and Helen Housby returned to the court as the Vitality Roses freshened up their attacking end.
At the back, Fadoju continued to exhibit her talents as she produced another deflection – her fourth in the space of ten minutes – to help turnover the ball and get the Vitality Roses back on the attack and move level on the scoreboard. Much to the delight of the Newcastle crowd, Donnell Wallam, the first Indigenous player for Australia in 20 years, was brought on for her first cap for the Diamonds and immediately got the Aussie fans up on their feet as she helped the hosts reassert their advantage with her first touch of the game. Despite continued dominance in possession from the Vitality Roses, the Diamonds defence continued to stand firm in the final quarter as Courtney Bruce picked off two key intercepts to really fire up the crowd.
As the game neared its conclusion, another Fadoju turnover gave the Vitality Roses the opportunity to level the game with just a minute left to play which Cardwell converted under the post. But in what turned out to be a dramatic final phase, the Diamonds won ball and went on the counter attack. Donnell Wallam was found on the move in the circle and produced an athletic layup to give the hosts the win in the final seconds and send the crowd into ecstasy.
Centre Maddy Proud was awarded Player of the Match after registering 26 goal assists for the hosts.
The Vitality Roses are back in action for the second test on Sunday 30 October. You can watch all the action on Sky Sports Arena and Mix from 8am (UK time).
Australian Diamonds starting seven: Sarah Klau (GK), Courtney Bruce (GD), Jamie-Lee Price (WD), Maddy Proud (C), Paige Hadley (WA), Kiera Austin (GA), Sophie Garbin (GS)
Substitutes: Cara Koenen, Kate Maloney, Maddie Turner, Donnell Wallam, Jo Weston
Vitality Roses starting seven: Geva Mentor (GK), Fran Williams (GD), Laura Malcolm (WD), Jade Clarke (C), Natalie Metcalf (WA), Helen Housby (GA), Eleanor Cardwell (GS)
Substitutes: Imogen Allison, Sophie Drakeford-Lewis, Funmi Fadoju, Layla Guscoth, Hannah Joseph