by Cara Gledhill
New Zealand, Australia and Jamaica emerged as the three teams to beat on the first day of competition. When Australia beat Jamaica, it set up a showdown between the two trans-Tasman nations. New Zealand emerged victorious to become the only unbeaten team on the first day.
The Jamaicans used their powerplay effectively in all games bar the one against Australia. Against South Africa, they scored a massive 24 points setting up a big win. Shanice Beckford downed two supershots in quick succession to boost them into the lead and they never looked back from there. Later in the day, the Australians starved Jamaica of ball in their powerplay and this, coupled with some off-target shooting, saw them score just four points.
England’s George Fisher came agonisingly close to equalling Beckford’s feat in England’s own powerplay quarter against New Zealand later in the day. Fisher sent one home after England failed to score for the first four minutes of their powerplay. The second,which came just moments later far from the edge of the circle, went through but the whistle had already gone for a penalty. Despite being disallowed, this turn, throw and hope effort set the crowd alight.
Teams playing against a powerplay could effectively hold the ball up by keeping the scoreboard ticking over themselves. In the first game of the day, Australia equalled Malawi’s score during their powerplay. A mixture of two- and one-point shots from Kaylia Stanton allowed the Australians to keep on an even footing. An intense full court defence from the Australians, particularly by Kim Jenner, saw the Malawi Queens lose the ball countless times in attack.
When New Zealand faced off against Australia in the last game of the day, keeping up with the team in the powerplay was crucial. The Australians took far better advantage of their powerplay quarter, scoring 18 points to New Zealand’s 12. But due to some sharp shooting from Bailey Mes, New Zealand scored 11 points in Australia’s powerplay quarter, while Australia were only able to manage four points during New Zealand’s. The Ferns eventually ran away two-point winners after maintaining better composure in the last quarter.
Stats from Day 1:
3 point range
Beckford (Jamaica) – 6
Dunn (New Zealand) – 2
2 point range
Austin (Australia) – 15
Burger (South Africa) – 15
1 point range
Aiken (Jamaica) – 22
Mvula (Malawi) – 22
Supershots (3 point range shot in a powerplay quarter)
Beckford (Jamaica) – 2
Fisher (England) – 1
Mvula (Malawi) – 1
Most intercepts: Ngwira (Malawi) – 5
Most deflections: Sterling (Jamaica) – 9
Most goal assists: Thomas (Jamaica) – 14
Most rebounds: Ngwira (Malawi) – 11
by Alexia Mitchell
Game 1. Malawi 33 def South Africa 32.
Goal shooter Joyce Mvula spearheaded Malawi to a two-goal lead in the first half with her impressive aerial displays and strength under the post. Malawi powered ahead 27 – 14 in their third quarter powerplay, providing a huge challenge for South Africa. Renske Stoltz produced some magnificent long-bombs with Sigi Burger rebounding under the post during their powerplay.
South Africa were down 30 – 26 in the final minute and needed to pull a rabbit out of the hat to win the game. Captain Shadine Van der Merwe took a crucial intercept, giving Stoltz a 6-point supershot, and South Africa surged ahead by two. The game looked finished, until Malawi’s Jane Chimaliro shot a courageous 3-point goal in the dying seconds.
Game 2. England 29 def Australia 28.
England almost forgot their rivalry with Australia when Aussie midcourter Jess Anstiss launched at a ball on circle-edge, taking out herself and two opponents. Nat Panagarry lifted Anstiss out of the rubble and gave her a tap on the back.
Austin and Stanton’s radars were slightly off during their second quarter powerplay and more so throughout the match where they shot at 29 and 38 percent from two-point range, respectively.
Australia’s six-point lead quickly evaporated to three in the third term. England’s five goal attempts in their final powerplay quarter was just enough against Australia’s twelve, when a four-pointer from George Fisher in the dying seconds handed England the match.
Game 3. Jamaica 23 def New Zealand 22
Kiwi captain Sulu Fitzpatrick was a weapon against Jamaica and fought hard for every ball. Though Romelda Aiken won most battles, Fitzpatricks’ smarts were displayed when she frequently hit the net during throw-ins to buy time for her attackers.
The second quarter was particularly mellow, with the teams scoring six points between them, and playing Fantasy by Mariah Carey through the speakers didn’t help the atmosphere. Jamaica won the match when Kiwi shooter Bailey Mes missed a game-levelling penalty shot after the whistle. The game climaxed after their win, when host Sue Gaudion convinced Jamaican midcourter Adean Thomas to rap Cardi B’s I Like It, and she spat absolute fire.
Game 4 Australia 50 def South Africa 20
The match highlight came before the game, with South Africa nailing their dance routine to Shakira’s Waka Waka. However Kaylia Stanton took the cake when her vocals to Nutbush City Limit blew South Africa off the court. What is this competition? Because I like it!
The Australians stuck to their second-quarter powerplay game plan and it worked well this time. All Aussie shooters were on song and Australia shot out to an 18-goal lead. Stanton was particularly impressive, nailing 7/11 goals from 2-point range and a 3-pointer before the final whistle. Renske Stoltz was a shining light for South Africa but her long bombs couldn’t salvage the huge loss.
Game 5 New Zealand 36 def Malawi 16
A team performance from New Zealand handed them a huge win and a spot in the final. Midcourters Whitney Sounness and Kimiora Poi were workhorses, finding space easily, contesting every ball and feeding effortlessly. Fitzpatrick and Holly Fowler’s defensive hoists and physicality limited Mvula to just five points for the match while Chimaliro remained unphased and shouldered all of Malawi’s 2-pointers. Defender Loreen Ngwira was Malawi’s biggest influencer, snatching in any high ball and applying maximum pressure over the shot.
Game 6. Jamaica 42 def England 37
The Australian crowd were supporting the English for the first time since the 2018 Commonwealth Games as a win would send Australia to the final. English defender Jodie Gibson played the quarter of her life, taking two intercepts, a rebound and a pickup in the second quarter.
The Jamaicans unleashed a deadly third quarter, scoring 22 points on the back of a six-point supershot from Thristina Harwood. England needed to win their powerplay quarter by 23 points to take the match, and with the hopes and dreams of a (mainly) Australian crowd behind them anything seemed possible. Enter George Fisher. Three minutes in and she had scored two 6-point supershots. She took on Shamera Sterling by literally pushing away Sterling’s hands with the ball before shooting.
One minute to go, eleven points down and the crowd erupted as English defender Emma Dovey took an intercept which Fisher followed in with another supershot. The decibel reading in Melbourne Arena rivalled ‘Panic! At The Disco’s’ music concert two weeks ago, and there was definitely panic at this disco. Jamaica held on in the last 30 seconds, securing their spot in the final.
Final – 5th v 6th. South Africa v England.
England took the first half 14 – 11 after implementing some sneaky tactics where Panagarry was subbed in and deflected a cross-court pass that was converted into a goal. Moments later Amy Carter replaced Panagarry, producing an identical play on South Africa’s centre pass.
Fisher kept England within arm’s reach during South Africa’s powerplay shooting six of their seven points, while South Africa’s Stoltz and Burger shot two four-pointers each. An early held ball against England and an intercept from Zandre Erasmus prevented England from scoring until three minutes into the final quarter.
English defender Layla Guscoth lifted the crowd with a rejection over Stoltz, allowing Fisher (who else) to take a flawless 6-point supershot and later two 4-pointers to bring the score to 35 – 33. Stoltz was unable to seal the deal for South Africa when she missed a 3-pointer on the final whistle.
Final – 3rd v 4th Australia 35 def Malawi 33.
This match got off to a physical start as Joyce Mvula showed early signs of frustration when being called for contact and pushing Sarah Klau on separate occasions. From that point the battle was on and the Australian defence wore Mvula like a glove. Tension rose even further when Aussie captain Sam Poolman was introduced. She played a physical game and her work ethic in combination with Kim Jenner’s dogged defence was critical to the Australians having 41 scoring opportunities in the match, compared to Malawi’s 19.
Despite Australia only scoring 8 points during their powerplay they continued to build and produced a stellar last quarter, limiting Malawi to just two points in their powerplay. Poolman remained a huge presence for Australia, not necessarily taking intercepts, but guarding the space in front of Mvula, forcing errors from Malawi.
Stanton was Australia’s standout shooter, scoring 13 points in the last quarter including one 3-pointer. Malawi will be disappointed with their last quarter which was a vast contrast to previous games, but the Australians were formidable.
Gold medal match – New Zealand 34 def Jamaica 33.
New Zealand won the first quarter 10 – 5 where both teams had eight attempts at goal, yet the Kiwis were more daring and accurate at 2-point range while Jamaica scored from under the post. Aiken was lucky to get away with flattening Fitzpatrick and added salt to the wound by producing a layup as her opponent lay stunned.
In New Zealand’s second quarter powerplay their shooting accuracy backflipped, scoring 10 points out of a possible 30 to keep scores close at half time, 20 – 12. Shanice Beckford scored two 2-pointers in the third term for Jamaica to tighten the scoreline. The quarter was marked by a big brain fade, where Jamaica’s Adean Thomas walked away with the ball, thinking she’d heard a whistle, and was called for stepping – a sign this has been a long weekend for the players.
Despite the Australian crowd cheering against them a few hours ago, “JAMAICA” was now shouted from the stands and engulfed the arena before the starting whistle for the final term ended the ovation. New Zealand’s Kimiora Poi was the ultimate play maker; she deflected balls to the defenders before running on for the next pass, and connected with everyone on court. A 6-point supershot from Beckford brought the Jamaicans to within three points, while Mes continued to put away single goals as New Zealand’s only scorer for the quarter.
The Kiwis held their three-goal lead in the final minute and a critical intercept from Karin Burger could have extended that lead, however Stacian Facey deflected the ball soon after and the Jamaicans sent it into attack. The biggest brain fade of the tournament came in this moment when Aiken shot a two-pointer with 15 seconds remaining rather pass off to Beckford to attempt 4 points. In saying that Beckford didn’t offer on the circle and it was an opportunity gone begging, but a lucky escape for New Zealand who were elated to win a record seventh Fast 5 title, by a single goal.
Kiwi captain Sulu Fitzpatrick was proud of her team for withstanding the pressure.
“There was a lot of tension, but I guess we rode through that and absorbed it and were able to come out on top,” she said.
“[I’m] very proud, I love this team and I think it’s a really nice way to end our journey for this year and to be moving forward with momentum into next season leading into the world cup.”
Jamaican captain Vangelee Williams was proud of her team but couldn’t help feeling disheartened.
“We are disappointed, we’re always disappointed when we lose. Because last year we were in the final and we lost again, and this one as well by one point. One point always burns the most,” she said.
Shamera Sterling won player of the series, and Williams’ pride was obvious as she expressed delight in working with Sterling.
“It’s an absolute joy, we feed off each other so much and for her to get player of the tournament in a shooting competition, hats off to her, well done Shamera,” she said.
For Williams, watching Beckford play was her highlight for the tournament.
“Definitely when Shanice Beckford was taking those long bombs … watching them as a defender gives me joy to keep working for her.”
Whole tournament (including finals)
Most supershots: Fisher (England) – 5
Most goals from three point zone: Beckford (Jamaica) – 8
Most goals from two point zone: Stoltz (South Africa) – 27
Most goals from one point zone: Aiken (Jamaica) – 41
Most intercepts: Sterling (Jamaica) – 10
Most deflections: Sterling (Jamaica) – 16
Most goal assists: Lwazi (Malawi) – 27
Most rebounds: Ngwira (Malawi) – 16
International Netball Federation President Molly Rhone received a gift for her contribution to netball, with the Fast 5 tournament marking her last official duties before retirement. Rhone has been president of the INF since 2003 and has overseen the global growth of netball through her time at the helm. She was also vice-captain of the Jamaican team at the Netball World Championships in 1975.