The Australian Diamonds will be chasing a fourth World Cup triumph.
The Australian Diamonds will be chasing a fourth World Cup triumph. JOEL CARRETT

Diamonds have work cut out for them

AUSTRALIA faces a "tough" challenge trying to achieve a record-equalling fourth World Cup triumph in England, says two-time winner Cath Cox.

The competition begins in Liverpool on Friday night, and the challengers to the Diamonds' crown are coming thick and fast.

"There's no two ways about it, the other teams are a lot stronger than they ever have been," said 108-game international Cox (pictured).

"There's four (others) that could legitimately get to the final. It's going to be tough."

And the challenge is due largely to Australia's own domestic Suncorp Super Netball competition.

Diamonds coach Lisa Alexander has previously voiced her concern about the number of international players signed by Super Netball teams.

Her criticism followed England's upset win over Australia in the gold medal match at last year's Commonwealth Games.

While lessening Australia's stranglehold on the game, the influx of overseas talent has done wonders for the development of the international game.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 20:  Lisa Alexander, Head Coach of Australia gives her team instructions during the Vitality Netball International Series match between England Vitality Roses and Australian Diamonds, as part of the Netball Quad Series at Copper Box Arena on January 20, 2019 in London, England.  (Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images)
Lisa Alexander has been critical of the number of international players in the Super Netball competition. Naomi Baker

"The SSN has got 25 international players playing in it at the moment, which is quite incredible," said Cox, now netball broadcaster Channel 9's chief analyst. "All of the English starting seven, all of the South African starting seven.

"I don't think New Zealand is going to be our toughest opponent by any stretch. They are third or fourth (favourite) this time around."

While the Diamonds have been installed as slight favourites, the England Roses look the team to beat with Super Netball stars Geva Mentor, Chelsea Pittman and Helen Housby. Their best World Cup result was a runner- up finish way back in 1975.

New Zealand is the only team other than Australia to have tasted the ultimate success - four times, with Sunshine Coast Lightning superstar midcourter Laura Langman spearheading their charge.

Jamaica is a perennial dark horse, with Jhanielle Fowler and Shamera Sterling as their current bookends.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 11:  Catherine Cox of the Diamonds watches as a goal goes in the net during game two of the Holden Netball Test series between the Australian Diamonds and the Jamaica Sunshine Girls at Sydney Olympic Park Sports Centre on August 11, 2010 in Sydney, Australia.  (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)
Catherine Cox during her Diamonds days. Ryan Pierse

Of the powerhouse pair who have been dominating Super Netball, Cox said: "As a spectator it's fabulous, if you're a player it's a nightmare."

Cox, however, is adamant Australia could not have chosen a better line-up, despite only three of the 12 players having World Cup experience.

"There's been some big decisions made around selection," she said. "But I think the (most) in-form players have been picked. It's the best team we could possibly send."

Ahead of pool games against Northern Ireland on Friday night and Cup debutant Zimbabwe Saturday and Sri Lanka on Monday, the Diamonds have come together halfway through the Super Netball season.

"The good thing is because the season has been interrupted the team is super match fit," Cox said. "I think that's going to be really handy."

NEWCASTLE, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 19:  Caitlin Bassett of the Diamonds controls the ball during the Quad Series International Netball test match between the Australian Diamonds and the England Roses at Newcastle Entertainment Centre on September 19, 2018 in Newcastle, Australia.  (Photo by Tony Feder/Getty Images)
Caitlin Bassett will captain the Diamonds in England. Tony Feder

Cox, who will hosting Channel 9's broadcast of every Diamonds game, recalled her own World Cup experiences as a player.

"All of them have got very different stories," she said. "I think I've been through every spectrum of feeling around the World Cup.

"The first one in Jamaica (in 2003) we lost. The one in New Zealand we won in 2007 was Liz Ellis's last game. She's my best mate.. that was emotional. In 2011 I was on the bench, kind of mentoring Caitlin Bassett. She was the one doing the job."

Bassett, a two-time SSN winner with the Lightning and now a Giant, is current captain.

"She's the strongest I've ever seen her ... you can't push around much these days. She's leading well, she's confident ... I think she'll do a great job," Cox said.