AS the curtain closes on another Commonwealth Games, we take a look back at how each of the netballing nations fared in our team-by-team review series. Next up is New Zealand who snatched the Bronze Medal on the final day of the tournament, defeating England to reverse the result of the clash between the pair in the Group stage.
GAMES AT A GANDER
New Zealand was tipped to reach the semi-finals at a minimum, and started off the group stage with the huge first-up win against Northern Ireland, 79-20. Things got a little tougher from there, having to grind out a hard-fought victory over the eventually fifth placed Uganda 53-40, before getting the best of Malawi two days later courtesy of a 69-50 triumph as August rolled around. Another thrashing of the eventual 11th placed Trinidad & Tobago helped build the Silver Ferns’ confidence ahead of the last group match. Earning a rest the day before their clash with England to determine who topped the group, the Silver Ferns looked good in the second term against the Roses, but the home side stormed to a 10-goal victory. A disappointing semi-final saw New Zealand bow out of the Gold Medal race after a loss to Group A topper Jamaica 67-51, before stepping up in the Bronze Medal match to win by a thrilling seven goals against England, coming good at the right time.
In her first Commonwealth Games and as a player who firmly fits in the next category, 20-year-old Grace Nweke was a powerhouse, shooting 241 goals from 263 attempts and pulling in 18 rebounds. Though a permanent fixture under the post, the youngster gave fans a further glimpse into what she could be on the international stage. Te Paea Selby-Rickit (102 goals from 115 attempts, 51 goal assists from 55 feeds, six rebounds, one intercept and one deflection) was her main partner, while the midcourt of Gina Crampton and Whitney Souness had 121 and 95 goal assists respectively, with Souness also picking up six intercepts and the pair combining for 14 deflections. Defender Kelly Jury was also superb with 12 intercepts, 24 deflections and four rebounds.
Nweke was the clear standout, making her name in her first Commonwealth Games against some of the world’s best defenders. Kate Heffernan (22 years-old) had 24 goal assists from 36 feeds, nine intercepts and seven deflections through the midcourt, while Maia Wilson – who turns 25 next month – shot 75 goals from 82 attempts. The shooting stocks in particular are flushed with youth, though the Silver Ferns are not short of depth through the ANZ Premiership.
New Zealand is a nation that is always dangerous, and realistically would be happy walking away with the Bronze Medal. There were quite a few different faces in the squad for this international event, and Dame Noeline Taurua showcased some potential talent for the future in their rotations. One to continue to watch as they build for the years to come.