Constellation Cup talking points: Diamonds and Ferns battle needs a fifth test

The Australian Diamonds retained the Constellation Cup despite a 2-2 series draw with the Silver Ferns, the result coming down to goal percentage after New Zealand won the final game in Auckland to square the ledger.

From the series as a whole, there's been plenty of lessons to come out of it. Diamonds coach Stacey Marinkovich said that there are still plenty of areas the Diamonds can improve but still soaking in the series win.

"I think we've taken some great lessons," Marinkovich said after the final match in Auckland.

"I've put some combinations out there that are still in their infancy, we didn't have a long lead into this tournament and that's not an excuse but it's actually understanding what we were able to focus on in a period of time and what we could put out on court."

"It's been a big year, we've had some incredible success and we've got to be able to invigorate what we're doing out on court and make sure that there's a new flavour to it as we continue to go forward."

ESPN takes a look at the three talking points from the series.

Diamonds are still searching for a strong GA replacement for Steph Wood

The overarching theme from a Diamonds perspective is that the squad dearly missed Steph Wood, who retired from international netball after the World Cup. Wood is the type of goaler who will just stand up in big moments and shoot when needed, which is something the Diamonds lacked in the final moments of the match on Monday.

The Diamonds goalers played the ball around in those final minutes which led to a turnovers. Austin has proved that she can turn and shoot across both the Super Netball and in international matches gone by but her confidence dropped in the final two games against the Silver Ferns.

Across the Constellation Cup, fans saw little of Sophie Dwyer, who proved across the Super Netball and Fast 5 that she's not afraid to put up the shot from anywhere in the circle. In the upcoming series against the Proteas, Dwyer is the only goal attack in the squad behind Cara Koenen who can swing into the position which presents an opportunity for the 21-year-old to put her best foot forward on the International stage.

On the bright side, it's only the first series without Wood so there is plenty of time to find the next starting goal attack whether it's someone who's already in the squad or the likes of Tippah Dwan, Georgie Horjus, or Sophie Fawns.

A defensive masterclass from the Silver Ferns

It took the Silver Ferns two games to really get going in defence but once they did, they really set up New Zealand in the final two games.

The defensive end was able to shut down the Diamonds attack, confusing the space which allowed Kelly Jury and Karin Burger to pounce. There was no easy pass coming into that goal circle with the Ferns applying that pressure, which wore the Australian goalers down as the game wore on. This was where the reward for effort started to come for the duo in the last quarter.

The Ferns were able to convert down the other end, which is something they struggled with in the opening three quarters on Monday. Grace Nweke and Ameliaranne Ekenasio started to dominate in the final quarter and it just clicked for New Zealand.

In game three, Jury was awarded player of the match after having 5 deflections, 5 gains and two interceptions. While in the final match, the Silver Ferns started capitalising in that last quarter. Jury (7 gains, 3 intercepts and 5 deflections) and Burger (4 deflections and 1 intercept) were instrumental with Burger getting the nod as player of the match in her 50th test.

After game three, Jury said that the defensive unit reflected on the opening two performances and went back to what they knew.

"We went away after the last two games and reflected and decided we weren't focusing on what our strengths were and we're all the big humans in there, so using our wingspan is crucial," Jury said.

"We don't want to get caught chasing them because they've got incredible ball speed and footwork, once you get chasing you're in no man's land. So just using our wingspan using our width, we managed to get tips to ball and I guess make them question what they were doing."

Burger echoed the sentiments of Jury from the game prior when it came to the Silver Ferns cohesion in defence and that's the key to the defensive end winning ball like they did in the last two matches of the series.

"I think from past games as well when we are connected and play together we're at our best," Burger said in Auckland.

"That's the Kiwi style and how we play is working with each other. In the past when I guess shooters do get that run on us, that's when we sort of get drifted apart, so it's just staying connected and that's where [communication] are really important for us."

Is it time to add a fifth test?

When it comes to any sport, you want to win and win outright. So in the last couple of years when the series has come down to goal percentage, it's left that bittersweet feeling for fans.

The idea has been floated to add in a fifth test, although talks haven't progressed that far ideally it would rotate year on year when it comes to which team would host three games and which team would host two.

When Australia has the three tests it would be an opportunity to bring international netball to different parts of Australia that don't normally get to experience it. They have done this with the series against South Africa where they'll head to Cairns and Tasmania. Then there's places like South Australia where they haven't had an international test since 2016.

Marinkovich welcomed the idea of a fifth test when asked post-match in Auckland.

"Any time you get to play against the Silver Ferns in this rivalry is an absolute privilege. So bring on as many games as we can play," she said.

Silver Ferns coach Dame Noeline Taurua echoed the same sentiment saying that the Silver Ferns have been pushing for a fifth test.

"We've always echoed that," Taurua said.

"We've always wanted five tests I don't know what's happened as to why it hasn't. I think whether it's been COVID or something's jumped up in the middle, I'm not too sure.

"We've always supported that idea because for three years or so there's always been 2-2. In saying that Australia has won the cup because of the great goal difference, so if we don't get that [a fifth test], our next step is how we can [go] back to back and then how we can pull [off a win] in Australia."

The Diamonds will now turn their attention to the series against South Africa which will kick off on Wednesday night in Cairns.