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Heather Smith – The Sun Herald
Australia are the world netball champions for the sixth time. The brilliant Aussies defeated old rivals New Zealand 53-52 last night in a match so nerve-wracking that normally reserved national coach, Joyce Brown, was jumping up and down and screaming to her players to give that little bit extra. A sell-out crowd of 10,500 at the Sydney Entertainment Centre, including at least 5,000 New Zealanders who flew over for the tournament, screamed deafeningly throughout, creating even more tension as the minutes ticked by.
The game everyone was waiting for exceeded expectations with an electric atmosphere, exciting skills and plenty of action. New Zealand led by one goal at all the breaks but the lead see-sawed so many times it wasn’t possible to pick the better team. At the final whistle tears rolled down the faces of the joyous Australians, who never gave in to the tremendous pressure exerted by the 1987 world champs. Australia trailed by a goal or two for most of the match but in the last few minutes they lifted for a last effort, which ultimately won them the game and the world crown.
New Zealand, the defending champions, were gallant losers and could have won the match if not for some inspired netball from their opponents. In the last seconds of the game, replacement goal-keeper Roselee Jencke intercepted a pass heading for the New Zealand goal circle and sent it flying back up the court to the deafening cheers of the crowd. Australia’s champion goal-shooter, Vicki Wilson, potted the goal but the umpire had already signalled the end of the match and the celebrations began.
An excited Australian captain, Michelle Fielke, said it was “probably the best match” Australia and New Zealand had ever played. “We’ve never had a closer match – the atmosphere was fantastic and that had a lot to do with us winning,” Fielke said. “The girls wanted it so badly and they had the guts and the confidence to get through it. This makes up for 1987, when New Zealand won.” Fielke said that even when Australia led by four goals at one stage, they knew the Kiwis wouldn’t give up. It was only the Australians’ belief in themselves and their desire to win which got them home, she said.
A very proud Brown said that not only were the Australian players “great netballers”, but their experience in winning the world crown would help them in their later lives. “I’ll leave it to the girls to celebrate – it’s their moment,” she said. “This is a reward for their absolute dedication to the tasks I set them since last October. “Everyone split their last sinew trying to get to the ball, stretching that extra inch. That makes the difference between the good players and the champions.” Losing coach Lyn Parker was extremely disappointed for her players but said she was very proud of them. “They showed a great deal of character,” she said. “It was a credit to Australia, they played really well.”
JAMAICA confirmed their growing status as one of the world’s best netball teams by defeating the No 3 seeds England 63-54 in the world championship play-off at the Entertainment Centre yesterday. The flamboyant Jamaicans can now boast a No 3 ranking after they out-played a spiritless English side in the match to decide the third and fourth placegetters. England, earlier beaten by world champions New Zealand in Friday night’s semi-final 53-33, could not maintain their good form and were thoroughly outplayed. Jamaica stole many hearts with their colourful and energetic play and can be well pleased with their performance throughout the 13-day competition.