Why the Quad Series will be a huge test for Diamonds coach Stacey Marinkovich

It’s the last trophy left in Australia’s treasury and the diamonds are desperate to keep it.

In the early hours of Sunday morning, the team will begin its five-day series title defense campaign against New Zealand, England and South Africa at the Copper Box Arena in London.

The world’s top team is usually the favorite in this particular series, having won it five times out of the six times played since its introduction in 2016.

Marinkovic’s first series as head coach was not planned, as Australia lost the 2021 Constellation Cup to rival New Zealand.(AAP: John Davidson)

But with only one Test encounter under their belt since the pandemic began, there are some question marks hanging over the Australians – largely over their new coach’s tactics.

The last time the Diamonds took the field in March 2021, they were forced to hand the Constellation Trophy to the Silver Fern for the first time in eight years.

Although the series was first Stacey Marinkovich at the helm, fans and critics were reluctant to allow her a slack, expressing dissatisfaction with the series’ 3-1 result as well as the many decisions made on the tour.

Rotation, Rotation, Rotation

One of their biggest problems was the way the leadership process was handled as well as its conservative approach to team rotation.

The Diamonds traveled across the moat with a whopping 18 players, but only 12 made it onto the field where Marinkovic was pretty much stuck with the same match day team.

The audience was told that this was done with a bigger picture in mind: to allow groups to settle in and hold together. Instead, show a lack of creativity and understanding of how to take advantage of the current depth on the team.

A group of netball players knelt and stood smiling on the field holding the Constellation Cup.
The Diamonds’ conservative tactics and lack of experience led to them giving up one of the game’s cherished titles on Silver Fern.(AAP: John Davidson)

Of course, this sounds like old news to those who follow the game closely, but it matters in the context of Marinkovic’s tenure so far.

It also underscores why her tactics and team performance must improve in this upcoming quadruple series as we build towards the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

NSW Swift’s co-captain Paige Hadley was among the players who missed game time that tour, who told ABC she was hoping to hit the field this time around.

As someone who can play all three positions in midfield well, rarely makes mistakes, never gives up and has great leadership qualities, she can have a huge role in the team’s success.

NSW Swifts Super Netball player holds the ball with both hands as she prepares to pass the ball against the Adelaide Thunderbirds.
Paige Hadley, managing director of Swift, is looking to use the upcoming quartet to return to the Diamonds ahead of the Commonwealth Games in July.(AAP: Darren England)

Hadley is also the most experienced player on the current team, making his debut in 2013, and is in great shape having recently led Swift to his second Super Netball title in just three years.

“Court leave is making me hungrier,” Hadley said.

“Internationally, I feel like I may not have had a chance to consolidate my starting point yet because I was injured or sat behind someone else.

“Obviously I’d love to be able to play in this series, but even if I’m off the field, I know I’m still in the setup and have a role to play.

“Every time I go into this environment, I am completely honored.

The squad has been reduced to 15 this round since Marinkovic was able to spend more time with the players in camp.

And while there are still a few more players than the regular Diamonds, with five players per third of the field named, you can argue that it’s adequate protection given that sports teams around the world face the constant threat of being wiped out. The newest and most contagious COVID-19 strains.

Can Marinkovic harness Australia’s talent?

On the Marinkovich side, there’s a welcome return for experienced shooters Gretel Bueta and Steph Wood, as well as fan favorite and diehard Ash Brazill.

The three missed the Constellation Cup Series due to pregnancy and injury, and were joined by small guns Sophie Dwyer and Sunday Aryang, who could inject something special if they had the chance to debut on their first international tour.

The West Coast Fever Super Netball player catches the ball while under defensive pressure from a Melbourne Vixens opponent.
Sunday Ariang (left) has been called up on her first international tour and is the first African-born player to represent the Diamonds.(AAP: Scott Barbour)

The main questions around the team now revolve around how Marinkovic will shape the offensive end.

The defense is set, but there are plenty of options in the midfield and shooting circle that can be used with some bold selections and more team rotation.

England, likely to be Australia’s biggest challenge, was dealt a heavy blow on the eve of the series after shooter Joe Harten was denied boarding her flight when she re-tested positive for COVID-19.

But even without her, it looks like the team would be the most dangerous aspect of the series given their success over the past six months.

English netball team
England are the favorites to take out the Series Quartet after their success on Silver Fern in September.(Getty Images / Kai Schwerer)

They beat the Silver Ferns to lift the Tiny Jamison Cup in September with their first-ever victory on New Zealand soil.

Two months later, they delved deep into facing Jamaica to snatch the Reunited Series, managing to resist and steal the momentum in tough times with solid faith.

Therefore, expectations are growing for roses as they prepare to host this year’s Commonwealth Games, which will take place in Birmingham from late July.

You can watch the entire series four on Fox Sports, but make sure you’ve prepared coffee for its early starts!

The first game between Australia and New Zealand with the center pass at 3:15AM AEST is not to be missed.

Quadruple String Table

January 16

England vs South Africa at 1am EST

New Zealand – Australia 3:15 AM EST

January 17

AUSTRALIA – SOUTH AFRICA 1 AM EST

England – New Zealand 3:15 AM EST

January 19

South Africa – New Zealand 4:30 AM EST

England and Australia 6:30 AM EST

January 20

3rd vs 4th 4:30AM EST

1st vs 2nd 6:30AM EST

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