Memorable matches: 1999 World Netball Championships final – Australia clinches third straight title in come-from-behind win

WITH netball taking a back seat to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Draft Central is taking a look at memorable matches in world netball history. First up is Australia’s come-from-behind win over New Zealand at the 1999 World Netball Championships – now known as the Netball World Cup – in Christchurch, New Zealand, which saw Australia overcome a six-goal three quarter time deficit to reign supreme over the competition favourites. It was Australia’s third straight World Netball Championships victory and eighth title overall.

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It was a physical match from the get-go, with both teams coming into the final off the back of a tight semi-final. While New Zealand was expected to come up the goods, the Aussies put up a tough fight early with little separating the sides at quarter time. The Kiwis were clinical in the second, with shooting pair Donna Loffhagen and Belinda Colling just about unstoppable under the post, and unfazed by Liz Ellis and Kathryn Harby in defence. Julie Seymour and Anna Rowberry impressed through the midcourt, with the pair moving well through the pressurised goal third to feed crucial lobs to Loffhagen. 

The third quarter saw the heavens open for the New Zealand outfit, with consistency and cleanliness keeping their heads above water and extending to a six goal lead by the final change. Meanwhile, Australian coach Jill McIntosh was unafraid of switching it up, playing a young Sharelle McMahon in goal attack in the second half and rotating stalwart Jacqui Delaney – who had shot 12 of 18 – to the bench. While McMahon took some time warming into the match, thanks to defensive pressure from Belinda Charteris and Bernice Mene, it was this belief in the then 22-year-old that paid off, with captain Vicki Wilson (15 goals from 26 attempts) hitting the bench in the final quarter – in her final national cap – to make way for Jenny Borlase in goal shooter, with Borlase combining effortlessly with McMahon to shoot the lights out.

Australia was clinical in the final term, blowing New Zealand out of the water with an impressive 14 goal to six effort, levelling the scores midway through the term though New Zealand managed to draw back some of the momentum with the match well and truly coming down to the final seconds. A repeat toss-up in the late stages of the match is one of the more memorable moments, with little calling for a toss-up in today’s game and something that ate up precious time right under New Zealand’s goal post with little more than 40 seconds on the clock. But what the home side didn’t factor into the equation was the tenacity of Ellis, with the goal keeper leaping up to the ball and using her game smarts to propel it back down the other end. One thing Australia hasn’t lost over the past 20 years is its speed down the court, with the likes of Carissa Tombs, Shelley O’Donnell and Peta Squire racing down the court with ball in hand with McMahon fortunately on the end of it and unaware of the clock ticking down. 

It was a real combination of youth and experience that brought home the win, with Ellis dominating with her physicality dialling up a notch in the final quarter, sending Loffhagen flying and using her strength to bat the goalers away for the rebound. While McMahon only shot the six goals from eight attempts, her impact out on court far outweighed her volume and quick hands to feed to Borlase, who shot nine from 13 in the final quarter alone. For New Zealand, Loffhagen was impressive holding up for 30 goals but was unable to maintain accuracy in the last quarter, missing crucial chances to level scores or take the lead. 

This was both Wilson’s and Tombs’ last match for Australia, with both players retiring on the ultimate high following the 1999 victory.

NEW ZEALAND 13 | 10 | 11 | 7 (41)
AUSTRALIA 13 | 8 | 7 | 14  (42) 

STARTING SEVEN

New Zealand

GS: Donna Loffhagen
GA: Belinda Colling
WA: Anna Rowberry
C: Julie Seymour
WD: Lesley Nicol
GD: Belinda Charteris
GK: Bernice Mene

BENCH: Adine Harper, Teresa Tairi, Sonya Hardcastle, Lorna Suafoa, Linda Vagana
COACH: Yvonne Willering

Australia

GS: Vicki Wilson
GA: Jacqui Delaney
WA: Shelley O’Donnell
C: Carissa Tombs
WD: Peta Squire
GD: Kathryn Harby-Williams (Nee Harby)
GK: Liz Ellis

BENCH: Jennifer Borlase, Sharon Finnan, Janine Ilitch, Sharelle McMahon, Rebecca Sanders
COACH: Jill McIntosh

SHOOTING STATS

New Zealand:

Donna Loffhagen 30/42
Belinda Colling 11/20

Australia:

Vicki Wilson 15/26
Jacqui Delaney 12/18
Jenny Borlase 9/13
Sharelle McMahon 6/8

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