After eight years holding the Constellation Cup, the Aussie Diamonds have handed it over to their rivals across the ditch.
In fact, there is little left in the trophy cabinet at Netball Australia HQ, after the national side also conceded titles at the recent World Cup and Commonwealth Games.
The world’s top-ranked team is clearly going through a transitional phase, with so many veterans retiring in quick succession and a new crop of young talent coming through.
But Australian fans aren’t used to losing and they don’t deal with it well.
As a result, there has been plenty of criticism about the way new coach Stacey Marinkovich has handled the trans-Tasman series.
And perhaps the biggest critique from the community has focused on the captaincy process.
Under previous head coach Lisa Alexander, the captain would be voted in by the players during their pre-tournament camp.
But instead, Marinkovich insisted the team needed some more time together to figure out the next natural leader of the Diamonds.
So rather than name an interim captain, or give previous skipper Caitlin Bassett a final chance to lead, the coaching group took the decision out of the players’ hands and ran with a concept inspired by Australian hockey coach Ric Charlesworth, rotating the captaincy for each of the four matches.
While pundits found the idea of having up to four different captains in one series strange, they were left even more perplexed after the national side picked Bassett to once again lead in the opening Constellation Cup game.
Next it went to previous vice-captain Liz Watson for the second match. Then again for the third… and then the fourth.
These decisions allowed fans to read between the lines and make the assumption that Liz Watson would likely be named as the next permanent Australian captain.
Former Diamonds goalkeeper Sharni Norder (née Layton) has made the switch from netball to footy and now runs around in the AFLW for the Collingwood Magpies.
But during her time playing for the Diamonds, she was part of the leadership group and briefly captained the side from late 2016 until the end of the 2017 Quad Series.
Speaking with the ABC, Norder voiced her disapproval with the way the leadership process was handled this tour, suggesting it was another example of the sport always trying to say the right things, but failing to follow through with action.
“Hopefully, the communication within the squad was better than the communication that was given to the public,” she said.
“Because I don’t think it’s fair to do that to the previous captain, to speak about rotation and then not continue to pass it onto someone else.”
“So you would hope that there has been upfront and honest communication within the squad about those decisions, because it’s not fair on Liz either… to put her in a situation that contradicts how the captaincy might get passed on.”
Norder won three gold medals representing Australia with Caitlin Bassett by her side, and says the recent Diamonds team should have done more to draw on the centurion’s experience.
“I would have liked to see her play a bit more,” Norder said.
“Yes, they didn’t win the first game and then they made a change to the shooting circle and it worked, which was great.
“But if you make more changes and it still doesn’t work, there’s no reason not to try that original idea again.”
Where to next for the Diamonds?
Despite her thoughts on the captaincy, Norder believes there are a lot of positives to come out of Australia’s Constellation Cup performance.
Acknowledging Marinkovich has a tough task ahead, she hopes the group can stick together and shut out the outside noise as they continue to rebuild.
“In previous generations of Australian netball, you had to work so hard to consolidate your spot in that team and there might have only been one new person in the squad at a time,” Norder said.
“So it is probably one of the first times there’s been such a huge amount of newcomers in the one instance and I don’t want it all to be negative.”
“It’s not a skill issue… They got out to a few big leads, so we know what they are capable of.
“Now they just need to learn how to keep themselves in the game and to keep pushing as if the score is even, because New Zealand will fight back and you need to know how and when to take control.”