Reply To: HISTORY OF THE NETBALL WORLD CUP2020-04-01T23:31:43+10:00


Ian Harkin
    Post count: 17353

    Amid The Passion, We Show The World
    Heather Smith – Sydney Morning Herald

    Netball came of age on Saturday night as seven young Australians provided an epic ending to one of the greatest sporting spectacles Sydney has been privileged to witness. Any lingering doubts about netball’s ability to rouse spectator passions were obliterated in the deafening roar produced by 10,500 people packed into the Sydney Entertainment Centre. They were responding to Australia’s snatching of a heart-stopping one-goal victory over defending champions New Zealand in the final of the world championships.

    The world netball fraternity had waited impatiently for this clash, and all expectations were exceeded. Prime Minister Bob Hawke, a self-proclaimed connoisseur of sport, declared the final the most exciting sporting contest he’d seen. His colleague, Ros Kelly, the Federal Minister for Sport, Racing and Recreation, said the event surpassed the Rugby League Grand Final victory of her beloved Canberra Raiders in 1989. But the occasion needed no reassuring words from special guests and VIPs. It was a match which stood on its own, boasting two brilliant teams, a long tradition of sporting rivalry and the ultimate – the world crown – as the prize.

    A film director could not have scripted it better. The pace was furious from the first whistle, the skill and ball control were exceptional, and to add extra spice, the difference between the sides was so slight that neither was able to draw more than four goals ahead for the entire hour of play. The drama of the occasion was amplified as the cheers from a vocal crowd -half of them New Zealanders – reached a crescendo in the final few minutes. It was ironic that the rock-steady New Zealand players, who had led -albeit narrowly – for most of the match, succumbed to the pressure induced by the electric atmosphere and the Australians’ desperation.

    The last 60 seconds of the game passed too slowly for the coaches and players biting their nails on the bench. Goal attack Catriona Wagg scored with less than a minute remaining to put the Australians ahead 53-51, but New Zealand stayed in touch with a goal from shooter Tracy Eyrl-Shortland. The Australians’ hearts were in their mouths as a few seconds later, Kiwi captain Waimarama Taumaunu came up with the ball and sent it flying towards the goal circle. But Victorian Roselee Jencke, who replaced starting goal keeper Keeley Devery, came to Australia’s rescue to make the most important intercept of her life.

    Jencke passed the ball to a teammate, and the relieved home side threw it around until the umpire’s whistle signalled full-time and a 53-52 victory for the joyous Australians. Tears mixed with laughter and screams of jubilation filled the Entertainment Centre as the sell-out crowd gave the new world champions a standing ovation. Australian captain Michelle Fielke said later the team lifted for a final effort in the dying minutes.

    “We’ve never had a closer match,” she said. “The atmosphere was fantastic -it had a lot to do with us winning. There were lots of Kiwi supporters out there, but in the final five minutes the Australian supporters took over. The girls wanted it so badly, and they had the guts and the confidence to get through it. The game swayed back and forward and it came down to the last five minutes, and who wanted to win more. This makes up for 1987.”

    Australian coach Joyce Brown lingered in the background, unwilling to claim any of her players’ glory. Throughout the tournament Brown said that Australia, although seeded second behind New Zealand, were the best team and would win their sixth world crown. Her belief in her players was vindicated as they stayed cool under tremendous pressure in the crucial stage of the match. “This is a reward for the absolute dedication to the tasks I had set them since last October,” she said.

    The only cloud in the Australian camp was the ankle injury which prevented the vice-captain and wing attack Sue Kenny taking the court. Kenny fell during the semi-final against Jamaica and scraped a piece of bone off her ankle. She also has some strained ligaments, and will see a specialist.

    For the New Zealanders, it was the end of an era, with both Taumaunu and veteran Sandra Edge announcing their retirements amid the disappointment of losing their coveted world title. Coach Lyn Parker said that “a little bit of experience, a little bit of knowing how to win the game at the end” cost the Kiwis dearly.

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