NETBALL: Caitlin Bassett has lauded Geva Mentor for making her an improved player.
Bassett got the better of her Sunshine Coast club-mate in an international clash at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre on Saturday.
The towering goal shooter produced an impressive performance, snaring 43 goals at 93% accuracy, to propel the Diamonds to a 54-50 victory over England in the Quad Series opener.
It was Bassett's 67th cap but her first as skipper of the national side.
"It was great, in my first game as captain, to play against Geva," she said. "I think it was very fitting, seeing as she has been the benchmark for defenders this year."
"We gave each other a hug before we started and I knew that was probably going to be the only niceties from then onwards but she's an amazing player."
They spent most of the year practising against each other and playing alongside one another, as key members of the inaugural Lightning team which won the national league title.
Goal keeper Mentor was captain of that side and the competition's player of the year.
"I think she's made me a better player, training against her week-in and week out," Bassett said.
"She's very strong on the body and reads the play really well so I was really mindful that if I sat back and did nothing she was going to come and pick things outside the circle.
"She did come out for a slides and she got a hand to a few balls and she did make things hard for us in the circle but when (attackers) Gretel (Tippett) and Tegan (Phillip) drove really hard that really opened things up for me which was fantastic."
While some pundits may have been concerned Bassett's goal scoring could be impacted by having the extra weight of leading the team, she relished the responsibility.
"People put a lot of pressure on shooters to begin with and I think the worry, probably from a few people, was that the pressure of the captaincy would potentially affect my shooting but I know that everyone else in front of me (on court) is capable of doing their jobs and that makes my job so much easier," she said.
"As soon as we stepped out there and started playing I just took a deep breath and relaxed and I knew that getting fed (the ball) by Madi Robinson and working with Gretel Tippet was going to be great for me and the ball was coming thick and fast from the defensive end."
Australia will face South Africa next.
It's a team which includes another Lightning player. Goal defender Karla Mostert was the player of the national league final.