NZ captain Casey Kopua and Australian captain Laura Geitz prepare for the last game of the series. Photo: Katherine Griffiths
Brutal hits, blood and a fierce battle between the best two teams in the world; former Diamonds coach Norma Plummer says netball's trans-Tasman rivalry is the ''pinnacle'' of sport between Australia and New Zealand and the statistics prove it.
The Diamonds and Silver Ferns face off in Canberra for the first time when they play a series-ending Test at the AIS Arena on Sunday.
Australia versus New Zealand cricket has a history built on an underarm-ball controversy, rugby union has the Bledisloe Cup and rugby league has the Anzac Test.
Bancia Chatfield (L) and Laura Geitz of the Diamonds clash during game four of the 2013 Constellation Cup. Photo: Getty Images
But despite Australia holding an unassailable 3-1 lead this year, Plummer said Canberra should brace for the toughest trans-Tasman contest of all sports.
In 115 netball Tests, just 13 victories separate the Diamonds and Silver Ferns. It's in stark contrast to league's 52-game difference, rugby union's 60-game mismatch and cricket's 18-match disparity.
''And the scorelines are always close with one-goal wins, and that was even in my time in the 1970s,'' Plummer said. ''To produce these unbelievable games, it's amazing and sensational for the sport. It's the one game you want to play in … it's exhilarating because it's the best in the world, nothing else beats it.
''Australia versus New Zealand in netball surpasses everything else in sport between the countries.''
The Diamonds hold a ''big-game'' hoodoo over their rivals, winning 10 of the 13 world championships since 1963. But New Zealand has won gold medals at the past two Commonwealth Games.
The 2011 world championship final between the teams went into double overtime, with the Diamonds sealing a one-goal triumph in the dying seconds.
While other sports have been dominated by one country, netball honours are evenly shared. If Australia wins in Canberra, it will be the first time since 1998 it has beaten New Zealand in four consecutive matches. The clash in the capital - part of Canberra's centenary celebrations - is also the last time the teams will meet before the Commonwealth Games next year.
''It's going to be another hugely physical game, they'll be going hell for leather at the ball and bodies will be flying, to me that's exciting,'' former Diamonds captain Liz Ellis said. ''In rugby union, [Australia] likes to think we have a huge rivalry with New Zealand. But New Zealand benchmarks how they play against South Africa.
''But in netball, these are the best two teams for so long that it's all about bragging rights and the psychological edge … it really is the fiercest rivalry across all sports.''
Rookie captain Laura Geitz has led an Australian revival.
The Diamonds slumped to their first series loss to England earlier this year and were forced to rebuild. It sparked a turnaround and the Diamonds have bounced back to dominate New Zealand.
Coach Lisa Alexander might be tempted to experiment, but Ellis urged the Diamonds to be ruthless.
''They're looking like the Australian team of old … they're methodical,'' Ellis said. ''The next challenge is to make sure when they get on top, they put the foot down and finish them off.''
Geitz said watching the Diamonds play against New Zealand while she was at the AIS was the start of her netball dreams.
''We watched and thought, 'hooley-dooley, this is full on'. That's when I knew I wanted to play for Australia,'' Geitz said. ''Because we play every week in the ANZ Championships, the contests are closer than they ever have been. We've got two different styles, but we're so close - and they always will be.''