How do Diamonds solve a problem like Maria
THE Diamonds will aim to get inside the head of Maria Folau as they scramble for a way to stymie the superstar Silver Ferns shooter.
A Constellation Cup series that appeared destined for a second straight 4-0 Australian clean sweep is suddenly alive after New Zealand dominated the third Test in Hamilton.
The drought-busting 55-44 win leaves Australia 2-1 up headed to the final Test in Wellington on Thursday, where they'll retain the silverware if they don't lose by 14 goals or more.
New Zealand's renaissance was built around staunch defence from player of the match Jane Watson at goal keep and the metronomic radar of Folau.
Revelling in her shift to goal shoot, the veteran landed 40 from 41 shots, forging a unique combination with Te Paea Selby-Rickit, who provided an effective screen but struggled with 15-from-22 accuracy.
Australia skipper Caitlin Bassett and coach Lisa Alexander will plot how to counter a long-range attack that's rarely employed at Australian domestic level.
Eroding their shooting confidence would be a good start, Bassett said.
"Obviously both shooters were putting up some really nice long bombs so we'll have to find a way to get in their head a bit more on the shot."
Alexander is vowing there will be no repeat of the hefty penalty count against her team.
The Diamonds conceded 81 penalties to the hosts' 45, with goal keep Courtney Bruce pinged 20 times alone as she failed to adapt to umpire interpretations.
"It's been a very stark change coming over here," Alexander said.
"Forty more penalties is not acceptable so I'll have to have a conversation with the umpires about that."
Folau and Selby-Rickit have now played the last nine quarters of the series together - a stark contrast with Australia's heavy-rotation policy across all positions.
The changes appeared to count against them on Sunday but Bassett refused to blame that for their first setback since the Commonwealth Games final loss to England six months ago.
"Towards the end of this tournament we want to see what different girls can do and give them an opportunity to start," Bassett said.
"I think we need to be comfortable being uncomfortable at times.
"It's happened in the past that we've been able to get out of it but today just wasn't our day."