Constellation Cup 2021: Australian Diamonds refuse to blame two-week COVID-19 quarantine for opening loss

Two weeks in COVID-19 quarantine - and an opening loss to the world champion Silver Ferns - has not taken the sparkle from Australia Diamonds.

New Zealand have snatched an early lead in their four-match Constellation Cup series, taking out the first encounter 49-44 at Christchurch, with virtually no spectators under Alert Level 2 conditions.

The home team controlled the contest throughout, but allowed a nine-goal three-quarter lead to deteriorate over the final 15 minutes, as new Australia coach Stacey Marinkovich found a combination and cohestion that troubled the Kiwis, and laid a foundation for the next three games.

After a year of inactivity and 14 days under managed isolation, Aussie skipper Caitlin Bassett has fended off suggestions that her team were disadvantaged by their enforced stay at a quarantine facility.

"To be fair, being in managed quarantine and being able to train has been massive for us," says Bassett, who will hook up with Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic after the current series.

"I couldn't imagine coming into this tour if we were alone in a hotel, and didn't have a bike and all the amazing equipment and things we were able to do in Christchurch.

"I look at what we've done over the last couple of weeks as a real benefit to our team - it's given us time to connect and any time we were allowed out together, we got to chat and laugh. Training was an amazing part of the day, when we got to throw the ball around together.

"You can take the negatives out of what quarantine could hold for teams, but I think we used it to our advantage."

Most international sports teams visiting New Zealand under coronavirus conditions have passed through managed isolation in Christchurch, but their experiences have varied widely.

Last year, the England netballers thoroughly embraced their stay, as have the Australian cricketers, but their Pakistan and West Indies counterparts fell foul of the MIQ rules, and almost forced the cancellation of their respective tours.

"To be honest, it's just been a unique preparation, not the normal style that you would do," says Marinkovich.

"There were some parts [in the game] where you thought there was some execution and skill, but we obviously didn't have any umpires at training and all those little things that you take for granted when you have a normal preparation. 

"There were obviously some parts that challenged us, but there were some parts that actually helped us grow as a team."

Join us at 7:15pm Wednesday for live updates of the second NZ v Australia Constellation Cup test

More to come