Diamonds build momentum towards Commonwealth Games

The Australian Diamonds are set to use multiple starting configurations at the Commonwealth Games in April with coach Lisa Alexander keen to extract maximum value from the depth of her playing squad.

Alexander's team further tuned up for the Games with a 50-46 win over England on Tuesday morning in London, and can wrap up the Quad Series with a win on Sunday night against New Zealand in Johannesburg.

Three changes were made to the starting side from last week's win over South Africa, with Caitlin Bassett and Steph Wood replacing Gretel Tippett and Caitlin Thwaites up forward, and goal defender Jo Weston coming in for April Brandley.

More changes will potentially made for the New Zealand game as Alexander continues to test out the multitude of on-court combinations she has at her disposal.

"What we pride ourselves on is having depth in Australia," midcourter Gabi Simpson said.

"We may not settle on a starting seven that's going to take us through Commonwealth Games, we can mix and match, we've made some team list changes throughout this Quad Series so far and we want to be able to use everyone to have an impact.

"It's a great position to be in. Each person brings something different as well so it can change defensive styles bringing on different players, it can change the way we're bringing the ball through in attack as well which will keep other teams guessing.

"The fact that we do have such versatility will mean that's it's harder to prepare against us. We want to play unpredictable netball and at the moment we have 14 strong players, it just adds that unpredictability to our line up."

The Diamonds 14-strong squad at the Quad Series does not include superstars Laura Geitz and Sharni Layton, who are both hoping for Commonwealth Games selection.

Geitz, in the process of returning to competitive netball after the birth of her first child, was elevated back into Alexander's Diamonds squad last week following her recent participation in a Games participation camp.

Layton meanwhile wasn't medically cleared to play in the Quad Series after stepping away from the game last year with exhaustion, but was also at the simulation camp and is still very much part of Alexander's plans.

A final Games squad of 12 will be announced shortly after the Quad Series. Netball Australia will also name four training partners as emergencies.

Australia flew out of the gates against England on Tuesday, and led by nine points late in the third quarter before England rattled off six straight goals to almost erode the Diamonds' advantage entirely.

The visitors held on in front of a vocal crowd at the Copper Box in London to put them in pole position to recapture the Quad Series title.

Simpson said England was shaping as a dangerous Commonwealth Games opponent.

"They've put their hand up over the last few months, I think they've beaten New Zealand three out of [the last] five games as well," Simpson said.

"They're a threat and they're putting their hand up and they're telling the world that.

"Their ability to convert when they're under pressure has improved a lot, and their teamwork in their defensive structure is really great too. They have a lot of players with more and more experience, and working together with combinations they're gaining experience as well and I think that's what's creating that improvement in them.

"To come out tonight and be able to stunt that threat was really important for us, and gives us confidence moving into Comm Games."

This story Diamonds build momentum towards Commonwealth Games first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.