Cover image: Danny Dalton
7/8 Placing – Malawi 64 def Tonga 64
5/6 Placing – Uganda 49 def South Africa 47
BRONZE MEDAL – JAMAICA 52 def NEW ZEALAND 45
GOLD MEDAL – AUSTRALIA 61 def ENGLAND 45
Tournament MVP – Helen Housby
MV Shooter – Helen Housby
MV Midcourter – Kate Heffernen
MV Defender – Courtney Bruce
A heavy clash saw South Africa’s Izette Griesel leave court with a blood nose.
Gina Crampton (New Zealand) left the court with an ankle injury in the opening minutes of the bronze medal match, and looked in some distress on the sidelines.
Congratulations to Takondwa Lwazi of Malawi who played her 100th Test in the 7v8 Placing match. After the match, Lwazi made the announcement that this was her last match in Malawi colours.
Congratulations to Ash Brazill, who played her last game for Australia.
After six World Cups, England’s Geva Mentor will hang up her red dress. Mentor is one of the longest serving and most decorated athletes in netball. Congratulations on a wonderful career.
A huge congratulations on an exceptional career by Claire Maxwell, who has announced her retirement from the Scotland Thistles. The captain and midcourt stalwart is their most capped player.
Proteas‘ champion Phumza Maweni has also announced that she’s played her last World Cup. Congratulations on a wonderful career.
Now that the tournament has come to an end, these are the final placings of each team, along with their current world ranking and their position at the last Netball World Cup in 2019.
1 – AUSTRALIA – (WR: 1) (2019: 2)
2 – ENGLAND – (WR: 3) (2019: 3)
3 – JAMAICA – (WR: 4) (2019: 5)
4 – New Zealand – (WR: 2) (2019: 1)
5 – Uganda – (WR: 8) (2019: 7)
6 – South Africa – (WR: 5) (2019: 4)
7 – Malawi – (WR: 6) (2019: 6)
8 – Tonga – (WR: 7) (2019: DNP)
9 – Wales – (WR: 9) (2019: DNP)
10 – Scotland – (WR: 10) (2019: 11)
11 – Fiji – (WR: 19) (2019: 14)
12 – Trinidad & Tobago – (WR: 11) (2019: 9)
13 – Zimbabwe – (WR: 13) (2019: 8)
14 – Barbados – (WR: 14) (2019: 12)
15 – Singapore – (WR: 28) (2019: 16)
16 – Sri Lanka – (WR: 15) (2019: 15)
It’s interesting to look at the number of test caps in each team, to see if there is any correlation between match experience and finishing positions. Seventh-placed Malawi has the most caps of any country here, and with Takondwa Lwazi playing her 100th test today, they also have the most players (four) that have reached the century mark.
Next on the list are Silver medallists England. They also have two of the three most experienced players here in Jade Clarke and Geva Mentor. Clarke (208 caps), Mentor (174), and Latonia Blackman of Barbados (182) have all notched a record-equalling sixth World Cup appearance in Cape Town.
Gold Medallists Australia only come in at number 10 on the list, with their most experienced player being captain Liz Watson with 73 caps. Jhaniele Fowler is the most capped member of Jamaica’s squad with 101. New Zealand has lost quite a deal of experience since winning the 2019 World Cup. The Silver Fern with the most caps now is Gina Crampton with 70.
Total test caps:
1 – Malawi 938
2 – England 920
3 – South Africa 868
4 – Jamaica 685
5 – Barbados 618
6 – Sri Lanka 574
7 – New Zealand 571
8 – Zimbabwe 560
9 – Trinidad & Tobago 518
10 – Australia 497
11 – Singapore 476
12 – Uganda 423
13 – Tonga 396
14 – Scotland 395
15 – Wales 373
16 – Fiji 353
Malawi, the most experienced team at the world cup, started disjointedly in attack as Tonga got six deflections and one intercept in only five minutes. It was then that the Queens started to show their familiar connections at their best, with Thandie Galleta carving up space and the shooters nailing their first 25 goals at 100%.
Tala were playing with great pace on drives, defensive footwork, and passing, made even speedier with the introduction of Salote Taufa at wing attack. With Tonga making so few attacking errors, the two vital rebounds Loreen Ngwira secured in the second quarter helped Malawi to an extremely similar half time scoreline to earlier in the week, 33-29.
In the exciting third quarter, swarming midcourt defence by Hulita Veve and Valu Toutaiolepo, taking an intercept each and forcing dozens of extra passes, got Tonga poised to potentially take the lead. Mwai Kumwenda and Joyce Mvula were forced to use all the tricks and unpredictable passes they had in the book. An exceptionally fast centre pass to goal brought Tonga to 44-45 at three quarter time.
The last quarter saw Malawi break the game open, thanks to the renewed spark of Queens veteran centre Takondwa Lwazi dominating feeds, sighting her shooters from distance and passing instantly. Malawi showed enormous heart and determination with every lead and every intercept, spurring home by ten goals.
Some wayward passing saw South Africa trail 0-4 early on in their match against Uganda. The She-Cranes played a short, patient game, with some balls barely travelling a metre. Closely marked by Phumza Maweni, who has been in outstanding form all tournament, Mary Cholhok often cleared the circle as a much needed outlet before dropping back under the post
However, it wasn’t long before the Proteas settled into more rhythm, skying balls into the athletic Elmere van der Berg. Described by coach Norma Plummer as similar in style and athleticism to Gretel Bueta, Van der Berg finished with 36 from 43.
The South Africans were winning plenty of ball, but struggled in transition out of their defensive end due to passing errors, an issue that continued across the match. However, a burst towards the end of the first quarter saw them trail Uganda by just one goal.
Uganda continued to work the ball patiently in attack across the second, as South Africa tightened up their defence. In the circle, van der Berg repeatedly found the backspace behind Haniisha Muhameed, who’s more commonly known as a goal shooter but has been used extensively in defence this season.
Time and again South Africa gave themselves opportunities, with wing defender Jeante Strydom picking off several passes, only for the team to waste them through poor decision making. The long arms of Uganda’s Shaffie Nalwanja and Falidah Kadondi created havoc at wing and goal defence, making vision particularly difficult for the far shorter Bongiwe Msomi and Nicole Taljaard. However, another late quarter burst by the Proteas saw them go into the half time break on level terms with Uganda.
With the match continuing to teeter in the balance, Uganda kept their noses two goals ahead of South Africa in the third. With the match becoming increasingly physical, Izette Griesel was subbed off after a heavy clash and blood nose. However, errors continued to haunt them and with Uganda passing the ball around backwards for the last three minutes, they were able to run out two goal winners.
Uganda have finished with their highest ever Netball World Cup placing of fifth, while South Africa have dropped back from their fourth placing in 2019.
New Zealand had the worst possible start to their bronze medal match when they lost vice-captain Gina Crampton to an ankle injury in the first couple of minutes. However, they burst out of the blocks to establish a four goal lead over Jamaica early on.
Maddy Gordon was a surprise starter at centre, pushing Kate Heffernen to wing defence and leaving Karin Burger on the bench. She added attacking spark, and was crucial on loose ball pick ups.
Phoenix Karaka and Kelly Jury put Jhaniele Fowler under enormous pressure in the circle, but the the world’s best shooter wasn’t going to let another match slip through her fingers. She finished with 43/44 in another dominant aerial performance.
Shamera Sterling caused havoc at the other end, picking up five gains, and forcing Maia Wilson into several attacking penalties. Fellow defenders Jodi-Ann Ward and Latanya Wilson also got into the action, forcing the Silver Ferns into a 3 goal deficit and 7 turnovers by quarter time.
With some of the Jamaican midcourt starting to tire, Adean Thomas was introduced at centre to add some fresh legs. A spark was also added by Ward who worked tirelessly against Ameliaranne Ekenasio and picked off an intercept and forced two errors in the space of several minutes. It forced a change, with Tiana Metuarau introduced onto court in Ekenasio’s place. Jamaica ended the half 24-21.
Introduced to the team after Grace Nweke’s injury, Metuarau hustled her way around the cirlce, and was valuable on defence. The Silver Ferns also introduced the fresh legs of Karin Burger to keep working Shanice Beckford over. However, Jamaica managed to hold onto a six goal lead going into the last term.
Wing attack Khadijah Williams maintained a thread-like connection to Fowler, as New Zealand continued to swing the changes.
Whitney Sounness was industrious at wing attack for New Zealand, but their 20 turnovers was unusually high..
After another 43 goals today, Fowler, has finished the tournament as the leading goal scorer, with 302 goals from 310 attempts at an incredible 97.4%
New Zealand was unfortunate to lose Nweke so early in the tournament, and it no doubt hampered their performance. This has proven to be New Zealand’s worst ever finish at a World Cup, despite their six week lead in.
Australia has regained the World Cup trophy after a gripping tussle against England, winning 61-45. As the Roses struggled to find answers that could impact the Diamonds, Jess Thirlby again put faith in bench players, but often swapped them back off after a few minutes. Impressive defence from Australia gained possession well in advance of shooting opportunities, and even 86% shooting wasn’t enough for England to prevail. Courtney Bruce’s brilliant six gains, alongside unrelenting pressure and focus from Jo Weston, Sarah Klau, and retiring Ash Brazill, gave the Roses little chance to build momentum – but it was unexpected shooting changes that sealed the win for Australia, with player of the match Keira Austin and Sophie Garbin making Australia unstoppable from the second quarter.
Immediately Australia targeted the first and second phase of England in varying ways, including shoulder-checking by Paige Hadley, and swarming and double teaming, but this did not undermine the Roses’ confidence. Diamonds shooter Cara Koenen started more on the hold, and the feeds were challenging and dropped into space nicely, belying how hard the English defence made Australia work. It was a rare error from Eleanor Cardwell, tip-toeing over the baseline, that gave the Diamonds a four-goal lead. 50-50 calls seemed to be falling Australia’s way early, such that Layla Gusgoth was benched in preference for Fran Williams at goal defence after only nine minutes.
Bruce was clearly told to hunt the ball, sometimes leaving England’s shooters utterly alone, thereby surprising them when she tightened up at the back, laying groundwork for a mountain of pressure later in the match. Imogen Allison and Hadley kept trying to draw penalties from each other, with the Englishwoman perhaps more successful. At the end of the first quarter they were locked at 13-all.
The capacity crowd built the tension even through the quarter time break. As in their previous meeting this week, Australia couldn’t find a way to disrupt the mercurial accurate shooting of the Roses. An inspirational deflection from Weston to a routine double-play by Helen Housby gave the Aussies back the slim lead. Every player trod the line between aggression and composure continually, in both attack and defence, with Australia seeming to have marginally better connection through the second quarter.
Centimetres often made a difference, as players everywhere started to get hand to ball, causing mad scrambles for possession and people diving everywhere. Despite holding the lead, the Diamonds brought on Garbin to match against Collingwood teammate Geva Mentor, with Koenen only having nailed 10/10 in 21 minutes. Soon Austin was injected at goal attack and Jade Clarke came into the middle for England.
Australia seemed to be getting the better of England at times, but then would commit an error and release pressure. Then to follow, Australia would win possession back with good defence. Garbin defied what was expected and mixed the angle of her holds with a front cut quite regularly, as Australia ditched the ball into her with great faith, suddenly pulling ahead with an exceptionally slick feed from Austin, 27-23 at half time.
Neither team had played all their cards, with Funmi Fadoju joining the game at goal keeper and Housby and Cardwell swapping bibs. Despite Fadoju’s athleticism, she couldn’t adapt to the variety of holds and feeds Garbin offered, the ball sailing relatively flatly with ease. When Sarah Klau came on as a surprise impact player, three minutes into the third quarter, she immediately deflected a ball, picked up by Bruce and flung onto Brazill, giving the Diamonds a seven goal lead.
The original combination of Gusgoth and Mentor returned, and the veteran defenders got closer to the feeds to Garbin. Austin floated gracefully out of the circle to calm the Australians down. England improved their angles, using smart connections from Nat Metcalf to Housby to Cardwell, enhancing Cardwell’s strength on the hold, but at the same time giving the Diamonds two held balls.
Chelsea Pitman was brought on to spice up the England attack and it worked instantly, but the real problem for England was stopping Garbin and Austin. The first and second phases by the Diamonds were very slick, and they were also willing to patiently battle for the right opening, having only one turnover for the third quarter. Having already made 22 positional changes, England were down 36-46 at three quarter time.
Austin was having a blinder for Australia, calmly releasing pressure, setting up Garbin, and also shooting at 88% with 15 goals herself in barely a half of netball. England were gaining possession, but were running out of time, down by eleven, with eleven minutes remaining. The Roses had to take risks but gave away eight turnovers for the final quarter. Bruce kept racking up deflections that seemed like gifts postmarked to Brazill. Even Garbin took a pearler of an intercept in front of Fadoju.
In the last five minutes the Aussies went on their merry way, blowing the lead out by yet another four goals in the last quarter. The African fans celebrated a hugely successful World Cup late into the night with rhythmic dancing, drumming, and beautiful harmony.
Tonga goal attack Marie Hansen had something extra special to celebrate – a marriage proposal courtside. The whole Tongan team crossed over into the crowd, apparently to salute their supporters, but then her partner Brandon Payn snapped into action, dropping to one knee in front of scores of Tala fans. A tearful but ecstatic Hansen accepted her glittering diamond ring as her teammates celebrated.
Congratulations to the happy couple.
No one is immune to hacking these days, and disappointingly for World Netball, it was their turn on the biggest day of the World Cup.
As the 2023 Netball World Cup wraps up, there’s a lot to celebrate. Along with some exceptional netball, people have celebrated bringing the biggest event on the netball calendar to Africa for the very first time. From the teams and coaches, to officials, media and umpires, people have networked, shared knowledge and skills and hopefully left behind a legacy that will see women’s sport continue to rise.
Telkom T-shirts have been fired into the crowd at half time of each match, with Julie Fitzgerald (Giants coach) just about cleaned up by one during the bronze medal match.
Some of the biggest applause needs to go to the volunteers, who are the heartbeat of any event like this. Always happy to help and cheerful, they’ve kept fans entertained and in the loop.
As teams have finished their competition, there’s been plenty of celebrations going on in local hotels. Local residents and other guests must be thankful for excellent soundproofing, as the noise levels have been as elevated as a spring-heeled Shamera Sterling.
*Qtr Time Pod
*The Netball Show