Reply To: HISTORY OF THE NETBALL WORLD CUP2020-04-09T14:09:35+10:00
Avatar photoIan Harkin
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    Diamonds are on top of the world
    Linda Pearce

    SO EMOTIONALLY devastated was Australian captain Natalie von Bertouch by Australia’s epic loss to New Zealand in October’s Commonwealth Games final that she sought a meeting with Norma Plummer many months later to discuss her lingering torment. Last night, in the world championship final, von Bertouch led Australia to one of its great victories, 58-57 in the last seconds of overtime. “Oh my God, it was a heartstopper of a game, and it makes it that much sweeter after Delhi last year to come out and win in extra time again,” von Bertouch said. “There is absolutely nothing splitting our two teams, so [it was] absolutely magnificent.”

    Indeed, for much of the match it had seemed that, for the first time in its rich netball history, Australia would be left without one of the sport’s two major titles. Even in the last minute of overtime, Silver Fern Maria Tutaia had a mid-range shot that would have sealed her team’s victory and it was left to world championships debutante Caitlin Bassett to coolly slot the decider at the other end.

    It was yet another classic chapter in a storied rivalry in which 39 of the 103 matches played have now been decided by five goals or less. The Diamonds are now unbeaten in world championship play since their finals loss to New Zealand in Jamaica in 2003, and have won or shared 10 of the 13 titles decided.

    Earlier, Bassett, whose half-time substitution had helped ignite the Diamonds’ recovery from a six-goal deficit, had missed a shot in the dying seconds of regular time that would have won the final for Australia, leaving the scores locked at 46-46. “We just kept fighting back,” von Bertouch said. “They kept pulling away and pulling away and we kept fighting back and it came down to who was up when the whistle blew and luckily enough that was us.”

    New Zealand had started better, scoring five of the first seven goals. Despite drawing level just before quartertime, two goals in the last minute to Irene van Dyk gave the Ferns a 12-10 lead at the opening change. The Australians’ difficulty penetrating the circle prompted the introduction of Chelsea Pitman for Kim Green at wing attack in what was just the Queensland Firebird’s seventh Test.

    Still, the Ferns scored the first three goals of the second term to push their lead to five, as a lack of flow in the Diamonds’ attack made scoring difficult. And, at the other end, the 39-year-old marvel who is van Dyk kept calmly slotting shot after shot – 17 without a miss to half-time, when NewZealand led 26-20.

    Changes were needed, and they came in the form of Bassett replacing Cath Cox, and Laura Geitz summoned to try to curb van Dyk. Plummer had been confident all week that her bench could make the difference and, indeed, the impact was immediate, with the Diamonds launching a run of seven consecutive goals in five minutes to draw level.

    Bassett, who had missed just one goal in five matches in Singapore, had two chances to put Australia in front, but could not, yet when player-of-the-match Nat Medhurst did the honours almost seven minutes before three-quarter time the defending champion’s momentum seemed irresistible.

    Still, as ever, there were more twists to come. New Zealand led again by three early in the last term, only for a Geitz interception to help Australia pinch the lead back again with just under four minutes left.“We needed a change and a few of them needed to man up, and that was the message that went out [at half-time], and I think our changes helped us enormously,” Plummer said. “Your heart’s always in your mouth, but you’ve got to have faith in them and that’s what we did have.”

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