Dozen it feel good? Australia claims 12th Netball World Cup

AUSTRALIA has reclaimed the Netball World Cup title to hold every international crown it could again, after defeating England by 16 goals in the Gold Medal Match. It was as ruthless and impressive from the Diamonds as it was disappointing and heartbreaking for the Roses, with the world number ones outclassing the side that beat them just a few days earlier to run out 61-45 winners.

After going down to England by a goal in the group stage to finish second, Australia came out to knock off Commonwealth Games silver medallists Jamaica and setup a rematch with the Roses. Though England showed it can beat the Aussies on an international stage, the Roses were no match for a rampaging green and gold unit who stormed to victory.

It was Australia’s 12th overall Netball World Cup title, having never missed a Gold Medal Match, and finishing second just twice in the past three decades. For England, it was just the second time the Roses had reached the Netball World Cup final, with their first time being way back in 1975 despite coming agonisingly close with the bronze medal at the past three events.

Both sides entered the match believing they could win, and by the end of the first term, neither had edged out the other. Both had scored 13 goals, though Jess Thirlby had already pulled the trigger on bringing on Fran Williams for Layla Guscoth to try and contain the Sunshine Coast Lightning pair of Steph Wood and Cara Koenen.

Koenen had already shot eight goals at 100 per cent, while Wood (five goals from six attempts) and Liz Watson (seven goal assists) were able to provide the goalers with some critical assists.

However England was having plenty of winners too, not missing a shot between Eleanor Cardwell (Seven goals) and Helen Housby (six), while Imogen Allison (seven goal assists, one intercept was having a strong start in centre.

Australia started the quarter well with Wood scoring four of the first six goals of the term to build a minor two-goal lead in the first three minutes. England steadied, but also began to miss a couple of chances as the defensive pressure ramped up. Stacey Marinkovich called upon a change in the shooting circle bringing on Sophie Garbin for Koenen.

Despite Allison winning the first term against Paige Hadley, the Australian bounced back to have a strong second term with seven goal assists and Thirlby replaced her centre with the experienced Jade Clarke. At the same time, the Australians completely mixed up their shooting circle as Kiera Austin came on at goal attack for Wood and provided additional height in the shooting circle.

That seemed to stretch the defence as Australia scored three of the last four goals and aside from a Garbin miss in the last 30 seconds, looked potent in attack. By half-time the Aussies were four goals up following a 14-10 quarter to lead, 27-23.

At half-time, Thirlby rolled out the changes with the entire defence switching in a high-risk, high-reward play. Laura Malcolm, Williams and Geva Mentor all went to the sidelines, replaced by Allison, Guscoth and Funmi Fadoju, with the latter getting her first minutes in a World Cup final.

It did not pan out the way the Roses had hoped as Garbin went on a tear piling on five consecutive goals in the first five minutes to blow the lead out to eight goals, 34-26. In the middle of that time, Sarah Klau replaced Jo Weston up the defensive end, while for England, Garbin’s dominance meant Thirlby had to recall the Australian shooter’s Super Netball teammate Mentor back on for Fadoju.

Malcolm also replaced Clark, while Chelsea Pitman got on court late in the third term, replacing Natalie Metcalf. By then the damage was done though, as Australia held a double-digit lead off the back of a remarkable 19-13 term. Garbin was simply brilliant shooting 13 goals from 15 attempts, while Austin fired off six goals at 100 per cent cent and also had 10 goal assists.

Australia’s second shooting combination was making a mess of England’s defence and the Roses could not find the answers quick enough. Fadoju returned to the court to start the final quarter replacing Guscoth, while Housby and Cardwell switched to mix it up in the shooting circle.

It mattered little though as Australia had one hand on the World Cup and was not letting go. Marinkovich made a final term switching Klau out for Weston again as the realisation of the result for both teams had set in. Though the Aussies missed a few chances, the supply was high, and they finished off strong scoring six of the last seven goals to push an 11-goal margin out to 16 in a flat finish for the Roses.

Garbin finished with 27 goals from 33 attempts, four rebounds and one intercept, with Austin scoring 15 from 17 and having 16 goal assists. Watson (20 goal assists) and Hadley (15) were outstanding, while Weston and Bruce both picked up two intercepts, doing their jobs with Klau throughout. Ash Brazill – in her final international match – played a selfless role to take control of the wing battle and win a key element of the match.

Housby was enormous for England, scoring 19 goals from 21 attempts, and also finishing with 10 goal assists to cap off a wonderful tournament where she collected Player of the Tournament in bittersweet fashion. Cardwell (26 goals from 31 attempts) and Allison (10 goal assists, two intercepts tried hard, but ultimately Australia was just too good across the court and won too many individual contests.

Jamaica (52) defeated New Zealand (45)

Jamaica backed up its earlier victory over New Zealand in the group stage to claim the bronze medal and ensure the Silver Ferns went home without a medal. It was the first time a reigning champion had failed to medal at the next World Cup, with the 52-45 victory one of mixed emotions.

Jamaica fully deserved the win as it won three of the four quarters, with Jhaniele Fowler enormous again shooting 43 goals from 44 attempts, while Shamera Sterling was dynamic in defence. Khadijah Williams (17 goal assists) and Nicole Dixon-Rochester (18) were both consistent throughout the match and the tournament.

The Silver Ferns gave everyone a chance on court, with Maia Wilson (19 goals from 21 attempts) and Ameliaranne Ekenasio (15 from 17) putting up some good numbers, while Whitney Souness provided 15 goal assists in the loss.

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