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Netball Quad Series: Vital insights gained six months out from Commonwealth Games

England, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa have all qualified for the Commonwealth Games which starts on July 29 in Birmingham; England's Vitality Roses are the defending champions and all four teams will have gained huge amounts from the Netball Quad Series

The Netball Quad Series was perfectly timed at the start of a Commonwealth Games year
Image: The Netball Quad Series was perfectly timed at the start of a Commonwealth Games year

Throughout the Netball Quad Series, England, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa asked questions of each other, while providing answers to their head coaches. Six months out from the Commonwealth Games, the competition has been invaluable.

"It's been a tremendous opportunity to play against all of the nations and to see all of the different styles," Stacey Marinkovich, the Australian Diamonds head coach said, after their final victory over England.

"Each time we went out there our focus was to improve, and I think we really did do that.

"There are still a lot of steps to go," she added. "Everyone's going to be scouting each other and we've all seen what we can do now, so we'll need to keep on pushing forwards."

As South Africa, New Zealand and Australia head home, and England perform their post-series analysis, we take a look at how each nation stands with a Commonwealth Games around the corner in July...

South Africa

South Africa's SPAR Proteas may not have won a match during the series, but as the competition developed, their belief grew and they were able to deliver at an increasingly high level.

The SPAR Proteas went from being a 30-minute side to a 60-minute side and a single-goal loss to New Zealand in the third and fourth-place play-off showed that they can wrestle with those ranked higher than them.

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South Africa grew in stature as the competition progressed
Image: South Africa grew in stature as the competition progressed

Ine-Mari Venter excelled in their shooting end and also highlighted her ability to play out at goal attack. If Lenize Potgieter returns for the Commonwealth Games after her time away from netball due to mental health reasons, then together they could be a lethal combination. Shadine van der Merwe's inclusion too will only add strength in their ranks.

South Africa's squad isn't as deep as the likes of England's Vitality Roses, the Australian Diamonds or New Zealand's, but when their starting seven click, they can rattle those around them in the rankings.

Nicola Smith was one of many less experienced athletes across the four nations who really took her opportunity during the Netball Quad Series and showed what she can do.

2022 Netball Quad Series - Results

Vitality Roses 71-47 South Africa
New Zealand 39-53 Australia
Australia 60-40 South Africa
Vitality Roses 49-46 New Zealand
South Africa 54-43 New Zealand
Vitality Roses 48-48 Australia
Third place play-off South Africa 50-51 New Zealand
Final Vitality Roses 58-46 Australia

New Zealand

For New Zealand, this series provided one of the most revered coaches in world netball - Dame Noeline Taurua - plenty of food for thought.

As Scotland head coach Tamsin Greenway highlighted mid-series, the world champions arrived in England with a purpose that was largely unrelated to coming out on top.

New Zealand's Silver Ferns will continue to develop over the course of their ANZ Premiership season
Image: New Zealand's Silver Ferns will continue to develop over the course of their ANZ Premiership season

"New Zealand didn't bring a squad to win a Quad Series," Greenway said.

"I don't think that they expected it to blow out as much as it did against Australia, and that will have hurt. But, the reality is they brought this squad over to answer some questions because Noeline wants to win in six months' time.

"Noeline is a tactical genius, so there's no need to panic."

Taurua, as Greenway alluded to, is known for turning the screw in the few months prior to a major competition. She did so in 2019 before the Silver Ferns went on to win the Netball World Cup and she's expected to do so again over the coming months.

The fact that Taurua is so involved with the ANZ Premiership teams, and that the competition is so strong, will assist her quest to turn up in July and have the Silver Ferns at the very top of their game. The return of the likes of Ameliaranne Ekenasio will assist that too.

All of the nations used the competition to learn about combinations
Image: All of the nations used the competition to learn about combinations

One conundrum for Taurua to ponder continues to be the position of Centre and just who is able to fill the very large shoes of Laura Langman.

Claire Kersten, Sam Winders, Shannon Saunders and Mila Reuelu-Buchanan all enjoyed game time over the course of the Netball Quad Series. Kersten was given the nod in the third and fourth-place play-off and her performances have potentially put her in the driving seat.

With plenty of ANZ Premiership netball to come and Taurua's high standards, the world champions should arrive in Birmingham sharper, well-drilled and raring to go.

This Quad Series has only improved these four nations. The battles that have taken place and the opportunities for players to step up.
Tamsin Greenway

Australian Diamonds

For the Australian Diamonds, the Netball Quad Series really made a statement and highlighted that they're in a confident and very positive place.

Of all of the outfits, the Diamonds were the one with the largest question mark next to their name going into it. They hadn't been seen on the world stage since March 2021 and were performing under a new head coach.

Marinkovich clearly has the support of her players and across the board the Diamonds look comfortable under her style of leadership, one that Courtney Bruce highlighted is people-focused.

"Stacey's greatest asset is her ability to get to know her players on and off the court," Bruce told Sky Sports. "She really knows how we tick and how we like to work; she's a really personable coach.

"She brings a lot of passion; she loves the game and all of us. She loves being out there coaching. The passion for the Green and Gold is what she brings the most."

Gretel Bueta
Image: Gretel Bueta highlighted her class throughout the series and stunned in the final

Marinkovich also illustrated her ability to make the right calls at the right time during the series. The depth of her squad allowed key changes to be made and individuals showed their class, including the player of the series Gretel Bueta, captain Liz Watson on her return from injury and Sarah Klau.

Alongside the Diamonds productivity on court, and the gear they showed in the last quarter of the final against England, they're heading into the Commonwealth Games with a score to settle and a point to prove.

The Diamonds are the world leaders in terms of the World Netball Rankings, but in the last two major championships they've come up short and they lost the Constellation Cup last year.

Second place is not a place that Australian netball fans and players are used to, and judging by their Quad Series performances they're ready to try and right those wrongs in style.

England's Vitality Roses

Finishing a competition with a 18-5 final quarter against you and one that costs you the title, is not the way you want to end a major competition in a Commonwealth Games year. However, it may prove to be a key moment for Jess Thirlby's side and they must not let it overshadow the rest of their series.

"There have to be learnings taken," she noted. "If you want to be at the top table, then you have to win and lose and take it on the chin. You have to move on and take the learnings for much bigger stages down the line."

The final 15 minutes aside, England showed their determination on a home court and the strength in depth available to Thirlby. The team's refusal to be beaten by Australia in their penultimate match was exceptional and their composure to see-off New Zealand noteworthy too.

In the coming weeks and months, Thirlby will be analysing her players' domestic form and making difficult selection decisions.

Since she took over from Tracey Neville, she has increased England's squad depth considerably. Her greatest headache is likely to be in their shooting end, after both Eleanor Cardwell and George Fisher continued to show they can change games and excel during the Netball Quad Series.

George Fisher of the Vitality Roses
Image: England's shooting end continues to give Jess Thirlby much food for thought

Helen Housby and Jo Harten are world-class, they have done it all before and you would not arrive at a major competition without them. If Thirlby takes all four shooters, then she'll need to cut elsewhere. If she decides to trim in the mid-court, who misses out and will that ensure ample cover for the wing attack position?

These are the sorts of questions which will keep Thirlby and her assistant coaches up at night, and in spite of the difficult, finish this Quad Series will have been invaluable.

Losing a final from a winning position as they did in the final will hurt England, but everyone involved in the team would take doing it now as opposed to on August 7 in the Commonwealth Games final. As Thirlby says, there are bigger stages to come for England and for all four nations.

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