Wilson injury mars win over New Zealand
Liz Ellis – THE SUNDAY AGE
THE sweet taste of Australia’s one goal victory over New Zealand on Thursday night has turned sour in the light of a serious injury to key shooter Vicki Wilson. Unfortunately for Wilson and for our world title defence, she has snapped the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee, an injury that requires a full reconstruction. Yet despite Wilson’s injury there were several positives to emerge from the match, including Jennifer Borlase’s ability to slot in as goal shooter in Wilson’s absence.
Borlase is an experienced player and this showed through when she stepped on the court in the dying stages of the second quarter. We were only two goals up and we needed cool heads and steady hands precisely what Borlase provided. The match was also one where our teamwork and commitment to each other came to the fore. This was essential in the last five minutes of the match as we were down by a goal with just under two minutes to go.
Before we left Australia there were some question marks about our ability to pull together as a team when things got tough. I think that these can now be removed. I had all the faith in the world that we would pull through. Thankfully, we did, not quite with flying colours. But that doesn’t matter: a win is a win, whether by one goal or 100.
In the middle of our elation we did have time to feel sorry for the Silver Ferns. The way the draw is structured, the match was a do-or-die effort with the winning team virtually assured a place in the grand final. The losing team was merely assured six more games with little hope of a final berth. All the signs now point to an Australia-South Africa final.
Despite our three-Test drubbing of South Africa at home earlier this year they cannot be underestimated. Following their surprise two-goal victory over New Zealand, the Proteas look hungrier than ever. Shooter Irene Van Dyk has improved her skills and, more than ever, is the danger player in the South African line-up. It is this along with a better full-court defensive effort that has led to the South African resurgence.
I am confident of our chances should we both win through to the final. Even without Wilson, our attack end is a force to be reckoned with. Borlase and Natalie Avellino are both great back-ups and the speed and cunning of goal attack Nicole Cusack is enough to confuse the most astute defence. Centre Carissa Dalwood is producing the best netball of her career and Marianne Murphy and Shelley O’Donnell are both playing error-free netball. Coach Jill McIntosh also has a wealth of talent to choose from in the defence and with Sarah Sutter and myself standing at 186 and 183cm respectively and the athleticism of Michelle Fielke, Kath Harby and Simone McKinnis, virtually any combination will be effective.
I’ve come to the conclusion that there is a conspiracy against all goal keepers. With Jamaica, Western Samoa, Canada, the Cook Islands and of course South Africa boasting shooters taller than 183cm, poor Sarah Sutter and myself have an awful lot of jumping to do. In the meantime, we are implementing our survival tactics to get through the remaining matches. These include sightseeing, plenty of messages from our doctor, Grace Bryant, and physio, Leanne Taig, and getting out when we can for meals. Of course, one of the most important tactics is reading the faxes we are receiving from our supporters.
Our final survival tactic is rest. The last three days included Jamaica, New Zealand and Western Samoa, all of whom are physical and who have caused us a couple of sleepless nights. This was especially so after the New Zealand match where us ‘newies’ to world championships got a taste of the pressure of performance and of how good it feels to win. While the pressure was great and the feeling was good, the ‘oldies’ assure us that both will only increase for the South African match. After Thursday I’m ready! Bring on South Africa.