One of the architects of the Diamonds’ 2011 World Cup success believes the Australian team will be untroubled by New Zealand’s Silver Ferns at the upcoming World Cup, despite the advantages this year’s ANZ Championship dual conference structure might have offered the Diamonds’ traditional foe.
Coach Lisa Alexander’s 12-player squad for the tournament, to be held in Sydney in August, will be announced at the Opera House on Wednesday morning and is expected to be headed by defender Laura Geitz, who has been captain since 2013, and her understudy, NSW Swifts midcourt star Kim Green.
The Diamonds hold the two major trophies in netball after they beat the Silver Ferns at last year’s Commonwealth Games to break a 12-year drought and edged the old enemy at the 2011 world championship in a 58-57 thriller.
Catherine Cox, who was vice-captain of that side, said that as a recently retired player she would love to see a close tussle between Australia and New Zealand at the first home World Cup since 1991, but the Australians have surged ahead of the second-ranked Kiwis and will be the clear favourites to secure their 11th title.
“I would desperately like to think that New Zealand will be super competitive,” Cox said. “But I honestly think that Australia is that massive step in front at the moment.
“When it comes to world champs those gaps tend to disappear and it comes down to close games. Every competition I was involved in, Comm Games or world champs or whatever, no matter what has happened during the year, when you get to those big events, it comes down to close games. But, as much as I want it to be close – because there’s nothing better than seeing Australia and New Zealand at their best, seeing games go into overtime and the excitement that goes with it – I just can’t see it happening this year.”
There has been much discussion about the extent to which the ANZ Championship has helped develop New Zealand netball since the competition’s inception in 2008 and, more recently, the dual conference structure, in which New Zealand sides were guaranteed semi-finals berths. However, Cox suggested the benefits worked both ways.
“You’d have to say that playing each other regularly like that puts the Aussies at an advantage, too,” she said. “Back when I was playing with the Australian team we’d play New Zealand three times a year and that was it. It was really hard because you knew only roughly what style of game they played. It was always a shock to the system. Now we know our opponents and we know what style of play they use. It goes both ways. The Aussies are getting more time playing on that zone defence that New Zealand do so well. Whilst we used to find it a bit scary, they do it pretty easily now.”
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