Aussie Diamonds suffer midcourt blow, as Paige Hadley leaves court in 74-49 win over South Africa

The Aussie Diamonds remain undefeated at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games after securing their third straight victory at the National Entertainment Centre.


Facing South Africa, it was the first time the team have played against a fellow top-five ranked team during the group stages, defeating the Proteas 74-49 with some slick ball movement.

Head coach Stacey Marinkovich ran with her strongest line-up, using the same starting seven that won the Quad Series final in January.

From the first whistle, the team took the lead with relative ease and shot at 97 per cent, only missing two attempts at goal across four shooters, as goal keeper Courtney Bruce impressed with five gains.

But the biggest story to come out of the match was the injury troubling Paige Hadley.

The NSW Swifts midcourter’s fitness has been a constant talking point at the Games, after she was the only player left off the court in Australia’s opening victory against Barbados (95-18).

Courtney Bruce has carried on her incredible form after clinching the 2022 Super Netball title with West Coast Fever.(AAP: James Ros)

Head coach Stacey Marinkovich kept her cards close to her chest after that match, sharing limited information with the press and downplaying Hadley’s “lower-leg” injury as more of a niggle that was being load managed by the medical team.

Hadley started in centre the next day in Australia’s win over Scotland (83-30) and played two half-quarters before resorting to the exercise bike next to the bench.

It was a cautious approach to her return to play, but Hadley never look troubled, partnering nicely with Liz Watson and carving up the court, showing positive signs as she worked towards a return to a full 60-minute game.

After a day’s rest, Hadley started for the Diamonds again against South Africa, looking every bit her usual self in the 24 minutes she was on court with 21 feeds and 14 goal assists.

Paige Hadley has spent more time on the bike than on court.(AAP: James Ross )

Unfortunately, halfway through the second quarter, disaster struck when she tweaked her calf and was forced to limp off, heading straight to the physio bench and later returned from the half-time break with ice on her right calf.

Kate Moloney took her place in centre and was just as solid, covering the role as she has done for much of the group stages – but the Hadley injury is certainly a worry for the Diamonds.

Without Hadley, Marinkovich loses the ability to rotate through her midcourt, creating a bigger workload for Moloney and Australian captain Liz Watson – who has only missed 37 minutes of match play in the team’s three matches so far.

Scans will be required to confirm the extent of the injury, but it’s not looking good, considering Hadley didn’t appear able to put weight through her heel when limping out to shake hands with the opposition.

Marinkovich remained tight-lipped about Hadley’s injury.(Getty: Mark Kolbe)

Speaking with the media today, Marinkovich was still guarded about the topic, but was at least able to confirm Hadley was dealing with a calf injury and that she’d picked it up during one of the team’s camps – avoiding specifying whether it was in Manchester or Perth.

“I don’t have the update on Paige yet, obviously she’s tweaked her calf, so we’ll see what the extent of it is and then the medical staff will work through it and try and get that recovery right,” she said.

“It’s an injury she sustained at camp that’s been niggling in the background, but she felt good and was moving really well so now we’ve just got to work out what her rehab program will look like.”

Should the injury not be as bad as initially thought, Marinkovich said Hadley may still be able to make her way back into the line-up.

“She’s the type of player that can rest and execute with not a lot of training, so she’s not going to lose her form, we’ve just got to be able to get her out there.”

A smiling netballer walks out onto court ahead of her team before a Test match.
Wing attack and captain Liz Watson has already shouldered a heavy workload during these Games.(AAP: John Davidson)

When quizzed about the increased load for Watson, Marinkovich said she wasn’t worried and that she was confident the versatility of the team would be able to cover the wing-attack position if needed – with extra options in goal attacks Kiera Austin and Steph Wood.

“No [I’m not worried], because if you look at Watson’s entire workload, she trains a lot harder than what we’ve seen during match play. These girls are really resilient and they all recover really well.

“Super Netball has prepared them for this with condensed rounds this season, which sometimes saw players take the court three times in just a matter of days.”

Australian netballers celebrate as their captain lifts the Netball World Cup trophy after winning the final in Sydney in 2015.
Hadley’s experience is invaluble to the team, as the only player in the current group to have won a Netball World Cup (2015).(AAP: Paul Miller)

For now, fans will just have to keep their fingers crossed, but, if the worst is confirmed and Hadley is ruled out, questions will be raised as to whether Diamonds selectors made the wrong decision to name Jamie-Lee Price ahead of Maddy Proud as their reserve for the midcourt.

Proud had a fantastic Super Netball season and led the competition for goal assists (364).

Australia’s reserves departed the UK before the opening ceremony, but even if a last-minute swap had been on the cards, Price wouldn’t have made a like-for-like replacement as she doesn’t cover the wing attack position.

Two NSW Swifts Super Netball players pose with a trophy after the grand final.
Proud (left) is co-captain of the NSW Swifts with Hadley.(Getty Images: Albert Perez)

Marinkovich didn’t want to buy into that discussion that Australia may have shot itself in the foot, backing the work of the selectors as well as the medical staff in their decision to push forward with Hadley.

“No absolutely not, I think we’ve got good medical staff and we made good decisions and it was just minor [at that stage].”

Australia’s last chance to trial combinations will come on Tuesday against Wales, before its final group match against Jamaica on Thursday.

The Sunshine Girls are also undefeated and are considered to be a huge threat, given the calibre of their team and the fact they beat Barbados (103-24) by a larger margin than Australia did.


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