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Aussies triumph at World Champs
Cathy Walshe – New Zealand Herald
New world netball champions Australia had to battle every inch of the way against an inspired Silver Ferns team for an outstanding 42-38 win in the final of the world netball championship tonight. In match that could have gone either way. The Silver Ferns fought back from a seven-goal deficit to close within one goal but just couldn’t close out the Australians in a low-scoring but full-on match. The game was typified by extreme commitment and white-hot intensity, with both teams throwing everything into it, and Australia secured victory only the last two minutes.
The Silver Ferns opened at a frenetic pace, with Jodi Te Huna netting the first goal with aplomb and goal keep Casey Williams breaking the Australians on the next pass with a brilliantly timed intercept in the circle. The Australians broke right away, only to see the Silver Ferns net the next three goals for a narrow lead. But once the Australian midcourt starting working the ball around, the amount of possession finding the shooters was hard to stem.
Sharelle McMahon had a quiet quarter, and Catherine Cox made a few uncharacteristic early misses, but it didn’t matter because there was always more ball coming through. The Silver Ferns, guilty of slow starts in early pool play, came out firing on all cylinders, but the Australians’ through-court defence was stifling, wing defence Selina Gilsenan in particularly spoiling form. The benefit of that came in the steady stream of possession finding its way into Cox and McMahon, who converted 13 from 17 attempts compared to Te Huna and van Dyk’s 10 from 11.
As she did against Jamaica in last night’s semifinal, Aitken brought on Joline Henry to take over from Julie Seymour at wing defence after the first quarter. But the Australians started the second spell with the sniff of a lead, and some rugged work from circle defenders Liz Ellis and Mo’onia Gerrard broke up New Zealand’s cohesion on attack to see the lead balloon out at one stage to seven goals. The Silver Ferns dug deep and closed the margin to four goals as the second quarter neared a close, with Williams showing outstanding anticipation and quick hands to keep the pressure on Cox and McMahon.
But the von Bertouch sisters were running riot in the Australian midcourt, Laura at wing attack in brilliant form, and three goals right on the whistle gave them a 27-20 lead at halftime. New Zealand’s problems didn’t lie in the shooting circle, however, as Te Huna and van Dyk missed only two goals from the 22 shots they put up. In contrast, Australia gloried in a wealth of possession and could afford the odd miss as they sunk 27 of their 36 attempts. Australian coach Norma Plummer benched McMahon after 30 minutes, after she sunk five from only six shots on goal and brought on the ultra-reliable Sue Pratley.
The Silver Ferns showed the same mettle they had the previous night against Jamaica, fighting for every ball and inching their way back into the game to trail 32-35 at the three-quarter time. It was more of the same through the fourth spell, as both teams upped an already impressive defensive effort and bodies started flying. One of them was Pratley, who fell heavily contesting a rebound five minutes into the final spell and was replaced by Natalie Medhurst for the final chaotic minutes. And McMahon came back on at goal shoot with five minutes left, as Cox left the court while Langman was being treated. But the Australian machine maintained momentum and rolled on to the win.
New Zealand captain Adine Wilson praised her team for their efforts. “We asked you to leave your guts out there and I think its all over the court….,” she said. “… We did everything we could but we couldn’t bring it home.” Victorious Australia skipper Liz Ellis said the Australians knew New Zealand were going to be a super opponent in the final. ” At no stage of the game did we feel safe. But this (Australian) team have worked incredibly hard and their heart and soul and fight (in them) is unbelievable.”
New Zealand coach Ruth Aitken said Australia had a great game and did a good job to hold her team out. ” We came back at them, we fought and we fought but it just wasn’t to be at the end.” Australia coach Norma Plummer said she felt sick in the aftermath of the victory. She had decided to make a number of changes at different times in the game because she had the depth in the team and “that’s what we went for”.