Leana de Bruin couldn't have asked for a better way to celebrate a special milestone in her netball career last night.
The 35-year-old was an instrumental part in the Silver Ferns' impressive 48-43 victory over the Australian Diamonds in the final round of the Quad Series in Hamilton.
The goal keep, who played 34 times for South Africa, was given a standing ovation after the match in a presentation to mark her century.
"Honestly, I never even thought about playing for the Silver Ferns let alone getting to 100 so [it's a] phenomenal feeling," she said.
De Bruin was given a start alongside skipper Casey Williams and the pair applied plenty of defensive pressure and both finished the match with three intercepts a piece.
"We wanted to come out firing and I think that's exactly what we did," she said of New Zealand's performance, which helped erase the scars of a 20-goal defeat to the Aussies in their previous meeting in Sydney.
"Definitely it hurts and we didn't want to feel like that again," de Bruin said of that occasion.
"Sometimes I think when you get defeated like that you learn a lot and we just had to individually go out there and show that we are way better than a 20-goal loss."
While the Diamonds took the competition on goal percentage, the Ferns will take the initiative into next year.
It was an inspired performance from New Zealand in front of an outstandingly passionate 4200 capacity crowd, who weren't shy from giving it to umpires Chris Campbell (Jamaica) and Janice Treasure (England) with the pair making some shaky calls throughout.
De Bruin said the key to the win was having patience down the attacking end and countering the Diamonds' one on one defence as well as cutting their error rate down.
She said her partnership with Williams wasn't perfect but they were able to team up well.
"I think just talking it up, who's got front and who's got base," de Bruin said of the key to their relationship.
"There was a few that we let slip but we haven't played together for a while."
New Zealand's defenders allowed the midcourt, led by Laura Langman - who was named the Silver Fern of the year - plenty of ball to dish up to shooters Irene van Dyk (28/33) and Maria Tutaia (20/24).
Ferns coach Waimarama Taumaunu stuck to her mid-week assurance of starting with her top lineup after having enough of experimentation through the series.
There were no surprises in the Diamonds' line either, as Lisa Alexander stuck to the same starting lineup which was used in their previous match against England as well as their last match against the Ferns.
Van Dyk uncharacteristically missed a few simple shots but was still good enough to sink them when it counted.
Tutaia also struggled early, landing three from six in the first quarter, before coming into her own later.
The Diamonds led 13-9 at quarter time and went up by six soon after the break.
But the Ferns turned that round and nabbed the initiative to go to halftime ahead 25-23.
For the third quarter the Ferns introduced Anna Harrison at wing defence in place of Kayla Cullen, while the Diamonds also made a change there with Mo'onia Gerrard on for Renae Hallinan.
Alexander also replaced Cox with the giant Caitlin Bassett.
The third quarter became a real dog fight, with plenty of ball up for grabs for whoever was hungriest.
Williams called a timeout midway through the quarter and the Diamonds switched Gerrard and Hallinan again, as well as bringing Erin Bell on at goal attack for Pratley.
Bell missed her first two shots, then with five seconds remaining in the quarter Williams again came up with an intercept, with Tutaia flinging a long ball to van Dyk to sink and make it 36-32 at three-quarter-time.
New Zealand went ahead by six in the final quarter and from there stayed tough and went on to finish the job well.
- © Fairfax NZ News