A near faultless shooting performance from substitute goal shooter Caitlin Thwaites on Wednesday propelled the Australian Diamonds to an emphatic 83-34 victory over Malawi in the first netball international held here.
Thwaites shot 41 goals from 42 attempts after being injected into the match at halftime as a substitute for Constellation Cup star Caitlin Bassett, who had shot 22 from 24.
The Diamonds capitalised on a nervous start from the Queens with Bassett notching three unanswered goals to start the match.
Bassett ended the quarter with eight goals from nine attempts with goal attack Natalie Medhurst contributing five from six.
The Queens overcame their early jitters to make a contest of the quarter and were accurate when they reached the circle, with goal attack Jane Chamaliro shooting six of seven and Mwai Kamwenda five of six to draw within two goals at 13-11 at the end of the first quarter.
The Diamonds took control of the match in the second quarter, nailing 18 goals, 15 to Bassett from 16 attempts and three from three for Medhurst, to take a commanding 33-19 halftime lead.
Thwaites took the court in the second half alongside goal attack Erin Bell in the circle and nailed all of her 21 attempts at goal in a faultless quarter in which the Diamonds restricted the Malawi shooters to just five goals.
The Queens continued to have no answer to Thwaites in the fourth quarter as the 27-year-old racked up another 20 goals with just one blemish on her night coming midway through the quarter.
Coach Lisa Alexander said she was happy with the way the Diamonds substitutes pushed on in the second half.
“The bench coming on were seamless which is what we talked about,” Alexander said.
“The best way to show respect to your opposition is to put our best game out there and I thought we did that very well tonight.
“We had a bit of a hiccup in the first quarter I said to the attack end that wasn’t good enough and they responded and came out with a terrific second quarter.”
Alexander reserved special praise for debutant Paige Hadley who formed a lethal combination with Thwaites after the pair were injected into the match at halftime.
“She (Hadley) was sensational. She did everything that we talked about which is a coach’s dream.
“Her feeding was just phenomenal tonight and her connection with Caitlin Thwaites was very good.”
Thwaites, 27, got her chance for the Diamonds in the absence of regular shooter Catherine Cox and Alexander admitted that she could provide welcome selection headaches in the future.
“I think she will,” Alexander said. “But we all know it’s a different level. Malawi they are fifth in the world they’re not the Silver Ferns. Caitlin knows she’s got a bit of a way to go but it was certainly that was a great confidence booster for her tonight.
“What she did tonight was hold strong and the great thing was that Paige – and Maddi Browne – put the ball to her in just the exact right spot. I think Caitlin pulled the ball in very strongly and just turned and shot which was fantastic.”
Captain Laura Geitz, who was also subbed out at halftime, praised the way the bench delivered in the second half.
“Something that we want to focus on as team is making changes and hitting our straps straight away and that’s exactly what happened tonight and that’s just so satisfying,” Geitz said.
“Having Demelza (McCloud) and Paige come in was an injection of enthusiasm for the girls. It’s obviously an exciting time for them and we all just bounced off that.
“We have come off five really hard games but we approach these two games in the exact same manner as if it was the Silver Ferns all over again.
“They are a quality side and when they get their fitness sorted and can play four quarters of what they put out in that first quarter they’ll be a very quality opposition.”