Catherine Cox and Susan Pratley count the 101 diamonds on the Constellation Cup.
Photo: Getty Images
SIX THINGS: What you didn't know about Australia and New Zealand's netball rivalry...
1. The Silver Ferns are late bloomers
Vera Lynn was on high rotation when netball's greatest rivals first met in 1938. The Aussies won 40-11 on their home court in Melbourne. A tour to New Zealand was proposed the following year, but was cancelled due to the outbreak of World War Two. The war didn't stop netball completely, with matches organised for the Women's Services. But with Australia sweeping the only post-war series before a 12-year hiatus, the Silver Ferns had to wait until August 1960 for their maiden win over the Aussies – one week and 22 years after their first meeting. New Zealand did not win a series against Australia until June 1981. By that time Lynn, who was still performing, had been displaced in the charts by Shaddap You Face.
2. Front (and back) pages are hard to come by
On planet netball, the Diamonds v Silver Ferns is the biggest show in town. Unfortunately, so far as Australian and Kiwi newspapers are concerned, the sport rarely rates more than a mention in a sidebar. Take last year's Commonwealth Games final in New Delhi, widely considered international netball's greatest game. With the scores tied at the final whistle the game went to extra time, then double extra time. Exhausted, the Diamonds coughed up a turnover and the Silver Ferns won it 66-64. Of the major papers, only the New Zealand Herald carried the story on the front page, and that was because Silver Fern Temepara George got so caught up in the victory she hugged Prince Edward. Defending her breach of royal protocol, George explained the hug had been on behalf of her father, who was English and had passed away in 2002. Her dad may not have been a monarchist but "he was royalty to me", George explained.
3. This time round they are playing for silver (and diamond) ware ...
Despite the Aussies and Silver Ferns contesting international netball since Lynn was on the radio, for 72 years there was no perpetual trophy up for grabs in the style of rugby's Bledisloe Cup. A Melbourne jeweller was duly called into action, and in 2010 the Constellation Cup was cast and plonked on a base of Murray River red gum. Fittingly, the Aussies became the first and, so far, the only holders, winning last year's tournament 2-1. In reference to the two teams' nicknames, the trophy is cast from 3kg of actual silver and features 101 actual diamonds – coloured white, black and cognac, if you must know. There are no ferns.
4. ... but not much more
Although it is barely a year old, the Constellation Cup has already acquired a nickname. Netball's main events are the four-yearly world championships and the Commonwealth Games, leaving this tournament to be dubbed the Consolation Cup. As was the case with England, who beat the Aussies in the lead-up to New Delhi but were ruthlessly and embarrassingly dispatched in this October's three-Test series, both teams enter this series in a rebuilding phase and with relatively little on the line. The Silver Ferns remain Commonwealth champions. In July, Australia gained revenge by winning the world championships final in another extra-time thriller. This series is about adding new players to experienced line-ups and forging them in hotter temperatures then pre-series skirmishes for both teams against England could provide.
5. Mascot watch
The Silver Ferns have Netty, who is sponsored by a whitegoods manufacturer and appears to have been created at very late notice with offcuts from a foam factory. The Diamonds' mascot, Darcy Clarke, is much better. Clarke, also known as Diamond Girl, is a fun-loving blonde who gained superpowers after discovering a rare pink diamond in her back garden. She uses these powers to get kids fit and healthy during netball matches by encouraging them to copy her funky arm movements and claps. According to Netball Australia Chief Executive Kate Palmer, Diamond Girl is a strategic move to further position the Australian Netball Diamonds' brand in the Australian market.
6. After this, it's FastNet
When the curtain falls on this series in Melbourne's Hisense Arena (a venue where, intriguingly, the Diamonds and Silver Ferns have each won three times), both teams will look to Liverpool. Merseyside plays host to next month's World Netball Series – a six-team international tournament played according to fastnet rules. Fastnet is a faster version of netball in a similar vein to cricket's Twenty20 format. It allows rolling substitutions, six-minute quarters shooting from outside the circle and power plays. Like Twenty20, it is enjoyed in some netball circles and loathed in others.
Watch the Diamonds and Silver Ferns free on BigPond Sport
BigPond Sport brings you video coverage of all three of Australia's games against New Zealand in the Holden Netball Test Series.
Watch all the Diamonds' games on a 30-minute delay online, on your mobile or on your TV through the Telstra T-Box.
Diamonds v Silver Ferns
23 October, Perth (Sport TV time: 14:23 AEDT)
26 October, Adelaide (Sport TV: 20:23 AEDT)
30 October, Melbourne (Sport TV: 14:53 AEDT)
The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of BigPond Sport.