Australia’s netball team certainly didn’t shine like their nickname as they were finished off by Jamaica’s Sunshine Girls in what was arguably the shock of the Games
p>” src=”https://www.nationalworld.com/webimg/QVNIMTI2NjMxMzE3.jpg?width=640&quality=65&smart&enable=upscale” srcset=”https://www.nationalworld.com/webimg/QVNIMTI2NjMxMzE3.jpg?quality =65&smart&width=320 320w, https://www.nationalworld.com/webimg/QVNIMTI2NjMxMzE3.jpg?quality=65&smart&width=640 640w, https://www.nationalworld.com/webimg/QVNIMTI2NjMxMzE3.jpg?quality=65&smart&width=990 990w” data-hero=”” fetchpriority=”high”/> Team England’s Natalie Metcalf holds the ball during the Netball Pool B match between Team England and Team Uganda on day five of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games at the NEC Arena on August 02. (Photo: Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Team England’s Natalie Metcalf holds the ball during the Netball Pool B match between Team England and Team Uganda on day five of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games at the NEC Arena on August 02. (Photo: Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Pressure makes diamonds is a popular athlete cliché at the Commonwealth Games, but in Australia’s case it can also destroy them.
Australia’s netball team certainly didn’t shine like their nickname as they were finished off by Jamaica’s Sunshine Girls in what was arguably the shock of the games.
Australia is ranked No. 1 in the world and has never reached the Commonwealth Finals, winning four of the seven gold medals contested.
However, the pandemic has severely curtailed their international programming, and that may have shown.
They had never beaten Jamaica in a major tournament, captain Jhaniele Fowler scoring 47 of their goals in a 57-55 group win, including a six-point deficit late in the game.
“It’s surreal, we haven’t beat Australia at the Commonwealth Games and to come here and do it with an incredible team… and to prove everyone wrong was really good,” she said.
“It definitely means more [to beat Australia].
“We want to go home with either a gold or a silver medal, but we’re aiming for gold. That has always been our focus.”
The final group game of the defending champions England against the world champions New Zealand was scheduled as a wrestling match for elimination against the Australians in the semi-finals.
However, the hosts’ 54-44 victory means they will now be in Saturday’s last four a repeat of the famous gold medal game of four years ago, won by Helen Housby’s final shot.
Before their victory on the Gold Coast, England’s Roses and Jamaica had traditionally been battling for the bronze medal at those games, but perhaps there’s a new netball world order disrupting that Anzac spirit.
England took the lead early in the game and didn’t let go. They were just a point up at half-time, but built that up to six points before the final quarter.
Eleanor Cardwell and Housby’s goals will grab the headlines, but this was a special night for the evergreen Geva Mentor, a 37-year-old who made her Commonwealth Games debut two decades ago. She went toe-to-toe with Silver Ferns goalscorer Grace Nweke, 17 years her junior, and tucked her in her bag.
Jess Thirlby has had a tough job succeeding the popular Tracey Neville as Roses coach and has taken the time to mold this team in her image.
This was arguably their best performance of their tenure, although don’t expect complacency, England lost their last game to Australia in the Quad Series earlier this year, 58-46.
And Australia have made no secret that they want revenge for the dramatic defeat at their 2014 games.
“We’re going to the semi-finals after topping a team above us in the world rankings and that has to be good for confidence,” said Thirlby.
“It’s a better place than recovering from a loss. This group likes to make history and we have a big task against a struggling team. They’ll be very rational about their performance against Jamaica and they still have the same path to the finals as we did.
“I’ve been in this job for three years and I’ve been on a great journey with these players. It’s still a group game, but the group will draw a lot of energy from this performance.”
They take their netball seriously in New Zealand and their failure four years ago has been described as a national sporting scandal. Hostile media accused the players of “disrespecting the dress” and the coach left before she was axed. In a remarkable turn of events, they were crowned world champions in Liverpool just over a year later.
No team has survived a game at the Commonwealth Games – New Zealand and Australia must buck the trend to assert their pre-game preference.
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