Diamonds tactics under the spotlight as Jhaniele Fowler runs riot in Jamaica’s Commonwealth Games boilover

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The Diamonds have been given a genuine wake-up call in Birmingham after being beaten by a relentless Jamaica 57-55 for the first time ever at a Commonwealth Games.

The Sunshine Girls had been building nicely throughout the tournament, registering wins against Wales (72-43), South Africa (68-49), Barbados (103-24) and Scotland (40-18) to put Australia on notice ahead of the blockbuster clash.

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Both teams headed into the final group match undefeated and the game well and truly lived up to the hype.

Fans teetered on the edge of their seats at the National Entertainment Centre from start to finish, riding every moment as the players tussled and scrapped for ball.

The match-up between 2022 Super Netball champion players Jhaniele Fowler and Courtney Bruce was particularly juicy because the West Coast Fever pair left their friendship at the door to batter each other for close to 60 minutes.

The world’s best shooter was always going to be difficult to shut down, she is in every match she plays — but Australia simply had no answers, despite their coach knowing Fowler’s game better than anyone else.

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Prepare for lift off… It’s never easy facing Jhaniele Fowler.(Getty: Morgan Harlow)

During the four years Marinkovich spent working with Fowler at the West Coast Fever (2018-2021), her job was all about harnessing the power of the 196cm tall shooter.

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So effective was Marinkovich in doing so that she set Fowler up to become a four-time league MVP.

That makes it all the more remarkable that now Marinkovich has moved on to focus on the Diamonds full-time, she has struggled to get her players to execute a game plan that stopped Fowler from dominating on court.

That the Diamonds had Fowler’s current Super Netball teammates Bruce and Sunday Aryang in their corner makes their inability to shut her down even more concerning.

Three Super Netball teammates get set to bump fists in celebration after a goal.
Bruce and Fowler are usually working together for the Fever, but they’re likely to be bruised after their physical encounter for their countries.(AAP: Darren England)

Fowler won her battle against Australia by a country mile, shooting 47 goals from 50 attempts and sending out a “try your best” warning to the rest of the competition.

Bruce left nothing in the tank while trying to restrict Fowler’s scoring opportunities but just didn’t have enough support from her peers out in front.

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Jamaica are almost guaranteed a goal every time they feed from the mid-court to the edge of the circle thanks to Fowler’s height and strength — performance analyst Luke Oats reported that the Sunshine Girls were able to convert 95 per cent of their feeds against Australia from that area on the night.

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Jamaica celebrate their first Commonwealth Games victory over Australia.(Getty: Morgan Harlow)

The services from centre Nicole Dixon-Rochester (23 assists, 34 feeds) and goal attack Shanice Beckford (18 assists, 20 feeds) deserve particular focus as it was their industry that allowed Fowler to keep peppering the goals in.

Beckford also did a mountain of work bringing the ball down court and making sure she was always an option for the centre pass with 28 receptions.

Speaking after the match, Kate Moloney defended Bruce’s performance and said the team simply didn’t execute their plans as well as they would have liked.

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Moloney acknowledged that the Diamonds didn’t execute their game plan very well.(Getty: Matthew Lewis.)

“I suppose Courtney knows what it feels like now for the other Super Netball teams to have to face Jhaniele Fowler,” Moloney joked.

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“I thought she did get some good hand to ball today, but it’s important to remember that the work up that end isn’t all up to Courto [Bruce].

“If we can do the hard work out front and encourage Jamaica to risk forcing long passes in, she’ll hopefully pick up more possession. So we’re going to have to find ways to help protect her a little more.”

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It’s back to the drawing board for Stacey Marinkovich.(AAP: James Ross)

Some fans didn’t see it that way, calling for Bruce to be replaced by NSW Swifts goal keeper Sarah Klau as an impact player off the bench.

That change did eventually come when Australia found themselves in trouble with four minutes left to play, having conceded a six-goal lead.

By then it was too late for Klau to make a meaningful contribution, leading to criticism of Marinkovich’s hesitation to make substitutions.

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That hesitancy reflected a clear change from the Diamonds’ first four matches in Birmingham, where Mainkovich trialled several different combinations — sometimes making up to 12 substitutions in the one game.

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Jamaica have had a lot of vocal crowd support in Birmingham.(Getty: Matthew Lewis)

Speaking after the match, Marinkovich said she had been trying to find a balance between recognising the need for immediate change and leaving players to work their way through tough patches out on court.

Practising the latter will better prepare them for the upcoming clutch games, especially considering the Diamonds are so used to playing with Super Netball’s rules variations that see coaches rely on timeouts and rolling substitutions to halt momentum.

While this makes sense, it’s still a fair question to ask why Marinkovich bothered developing new combinations if they’re only going to take a back seat in the bigger games.

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Despite impressing in previous matches, we didn’t get to see Aryang or Klau on court for very long.(AAP: James Ross)

“Well, I did change up the defence end for impact,” Marinkovich told the media.

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“There are times when you need impact and then there are times where you need to build, but I’ll definitely go back and reassess the timing of that Klau substitution anyway.”

Another epic match-up unfolded at the other end of the court between Diamonds shooter Gretel Bueta (36 goals from 39 attempts) and Sunshine Girls keeper Shamera Sterling (four gains, seven pick-ups).

With her long limbs and sneaky off-line style of defence, Sterling was able to rattle Bueta’s confidence in the first quarter to help Jamaica get off to an 8-3 start.

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Sterling was able to rattle Australian shooter Bueta.(AAP: James Ross)

The Diamonds did hit back to take a 14-13 lead into the first break, but Sterling kept grinding away and kicked it up a notch in the final 15 minutes to completely dismantle Australia’s attack and see Jamaica steal back the lead to win their first quarter of the match (17-9).

Under that sustained pressure, a few cracks started to show in the Diamonds’ game.

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Bueta’s timing was a little off, breaking away from the pack too early to find herself stuck outside the circle or high in the goal third, with no one inside the circle to post.

This put immense pressure on goal attack Steph Wood (19 goals from 22 shots) to perform, although she was able to pull the Diamonds out of trouble as well as sink some beautiful long-bombs.

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Koenen shot close to 50 goals against Wales.(Getty: Alex Livesey)

But similar to Klau, fans were curious why Marinkovich didn’t roll Cara Koenen onto the court at goal shooter when Bueta started to struggle. 



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