Reply To: HISTORY OF THE NETBALL WORLD CUP2020-04-08T15:27:37+10:00


Ian Harkin
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    Australians win fighting finale
    Linda Pearce – The Age

    FOR the past four years and four months, for the first time since the early 1990s, the world netball title has resided elsewhere. Later today, after a heavy night of celebration, the trophy will return to Australia, carried proudly by a team that upstaged defending champion New Zealand 42-38 in last night’s dramatic final in Waitakere.

    It is Australia’s ninth championship from 12 attempts( and eighth outright, as the 1979 crown was shared three ways) and the celebrations reflected the fact it had been eight years since the last. The entire team, including the coaches and support staff, swore off alcohol almost two months ago with this result in sight. The first sip of victory fizz last night was the first of many.

    Another chapter was written in the rich history of a rivalry that brought a one-goal margin in the first world championships in 1963 and has so often produced results of two goals or less including in the two previous finals, with Australia’s 42-41 triumph in 1999 followed by the Ferns’ 49-47 revenge in 2003.

    Australia owes its victory to an heroic defensive effort, as its shooters again faltered under supreme pressure. For the second consecutive night its scoring percentage was inferior this time (it was just 70) but sheer weight of shots and a timely rebound by captain Liz Ellis inside the last two minutes, when New Zealand had surged back to within two goals, counted in the end.

    “What a fight,” said an emotional Ellis. “The Silver Ferns were always going to be a super opponent tonight, and they fought back and fought back, and at no stage of that game did we feel safe. The heart and the soul and the fight in this team is just unbelievable. We just kept fighting and at times it wasn’t pretty, but it was desperation. Both teams were desperate but perhaps we just had the edge.”

    New Zealand was slightly steadier in a frenetic start, leading 7-4 as Australian struggled to penetrate its attacking third and shooters Catherine Cox and Sharelle McMahon both logged two early misses. But, gradually, things settled, Cox found her range, and Australia scored nine of the next 12 goals to take a 13-10 lead at the first break.

    Joline Henry replaced Julie Seymour at wing defence, but Australia’s lead only increased, and in less than four minutes had stretched to seven. Ellis and Mo’onia Gerrard were brutally frugal in defence, keeping Jodi te Huna well covered, and increasing the pressure on Irene van Dyk, who was being worn like Ellis’s favourite party frock.

    An important steal from Laura von Bertouch, converted by Cox, when the Ferns had edged back to within four just before half-time helped Australia take a 27-20 lead to the main break. Coach Norma Plummer sensationally dragged vice-captain McMahon, replacing her with Susan Pratley after McMahon had been held to just six shots.

    But Pratley, too, struggled, and Australia lost the third quarter 12-8. New Zealand had a sniff, and when Pratley left the court after a poke in the eye a few minutes into the last quarter, Plummer made the stunning decision not to recall McMahon but to include rookie Natalie Medhurst. Minutes later, McMahon was back anyway, and it was Cox who was dragged.

    However chaotic, it was sweet retrieval for Australia, which had lost both its world and Commonwealth Games titles in the past four years. The nadir was reached on this court late in 2005, when Ellis wrecked her knee in the first quarter of a Test that delivered a record 25-goal loss to her traumatised team.

    “I just think this team has worked so hard together, they’re so united and I think they were relentless,” said Plummer, who also defended her coaching moves, including benching McMahon when Australia led by seven.

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