Watson inspires Diamonds to clean sweep over Proteas

Australia have completed a hugely successful 2023 campaign by sweeping South Africa in their three-match netball series with a 77-50 win over the Proteas in Hobart.

Sparked by skipper Liz Watson, the Diamonds registered the biggest victory margin in the series after clinching the opening matches 62-43 and 67-52 respectively.

Australia finished the year with 16 victories from 19 Tests, having won the Quad Series, World Cup and the Constellation Cup prior to playing the Proteas.

"It has been an awesome series, an awesome month and I think just an awesome year for this group," Watson said.

The teams split the first four goals but Australia dominated the rest of the first half, leading 22-11 and 42-22 at the breaks.

Wing attack Watson was clearly the best player on court and frequently sliced through the Proteas, racking up match highs of 44 feeds and 31 goal assists.

In the first half, Australia's accurate passing and shooting and defensive pressure wore down the world No.5-rated South Africa, who struggled to score and maintain possession.

Coach Stacey Marinkovich introduced all five bench players into the game at the start of the second half.

The rejigged line-up took time to click and South Africa lifted their intensity, to only lose the third quarter by one.

The resurgent Proteas notched five successive goals to reduce the deficit to 17, but Australia surged to the finish line.

Donnell Wallam (26/30) took advantage of her first start of the series and together with Cara Koenen (16/16) capitalised on Watson's quick and slick feeding into the circle.

Koenen shot 100 percent for the second game running, but she and Wallam made way at half-time with Sophie Garbin (28/30) and Sophie Dwyer (7/9) keeping the scoreboard ticking over.

"I'm really happy with the way we finished what has been a massive year for us, there's always things to improve," Marinkovich said after Australia's 46th win in as many Tests against South Africa.

"We've been challenged this year, we were challenged in Con Cup and there's different ways that teams run with us, so we've got to keep raising the bar and finding new ways to be innovative in what we do."

Ine-Mari Venter (38/43) was South Africa's most prolific shooter, but the Proteas were again let down by their ball control, committing 28 turnovers.

But Proteas and former Diamonds coach Norma Plummer, who was coaching her final Test in Australia, was relatively pleased.

"It's still not 55 and 35-goal (losses to Australia) where South Africa used to be, its been 27,19 and 15 this time and on a new team I think that's reasonable," said Plummer.

"Its been a great career and netball has given me a lot, but I think also I've given a lot back," added Plummer, who won two World Cups as Diamonds coach and will finish up with South Africa at the end of this year.