WITH netball taking a back seat to coronavirus in 2020, Draft Central is taking a look at memorable matches in world netball history. Next up is the New Zealand Silver Ferns’ drought-breaking victory over the Australian Diamonds for the 2003 Netball World Cup gold in Kingston, Jamaica.
It was a match of pure physicality and supreme determination from both sides, with the Aussies insistent on continuing their winning streak but the Ferns with a fire in the belly, having not won a World Cup trophy in 16 years. Both teams had some stellar players, with plenty of recognisable names among them. While Australia won the second half, it was New Zealand’s threatening first half that put them in with the lead, able to hold on throughout despite the Aussies’ fight.
New Zealand took an early lead, winning the first quarter thanks to the dominant pairing of Irene van Dyk and Belinda Colling, seemingly one step ahead of the Australians. It was van Dyk’s first World Cup with New Zealand and the South African dual citizen quickly paid dividends for the side, with the accuracy and drive giving the Ferns something they had been missing in previous years. While the likes of Kathryn Harby-WIlliams and Liz Ellis picked up a wealth of loose ball, the Ferns duo were unstoppable at the post, combining well and applying constant scoreboard pressure to put the Aussies on the back foot.
Up the Australian attacking end, Sharelle McMahon had a constant barricade in Sheryl Clarke blocking easy access into the circle, and while McMahon’s clean footwork and speed allowed her plenty of crucial ball, it was a physical encounter between the two. Clarke’s five intercepts and game changing deflection resulting in a gain in the dying minutes – were critical for the turn of the match, with the final quarter going back and forth as the Diamonds fought to come back.
Teaming up with Clarke in defence was Vilimaina Davu, who delivered constantly applying pressure on Cynna Neale and McMahon at the post and forcing errors from the likes of Natasha Chokljat and Rebecca Sanders on circle edge, putting doubt in their minds. New Zealand’s typical zoning play was critical throughout, holding onto the ball with ease and denying the Aussie any clean motion or movement through the centre third. Cath Cox joined the fray in Neale’s replacement later in the match, able to apply some extra fancy footwork.
The physicality hit its peak in the final term, with a young Temepara Bailey being sent off – something ultimately unheard of in netball today, but a call which marked Bailey as the first ever player sent off in a World Cup final. It was her tenth contact that saw the call made, forcing Lesley Nicol into the centre bib and enabling two quick goals from the Aussies to draw even with the Ferns down a player on court, but the two minutes on the bench only put more fire in the belly of the New Zealand outfit, with a bigger drive and desire to get that elusive gold medal.
The dying moments saw deflections aplenty, with neither side able to steal momentum long enough to score, but the Ferns’ early efforts were enough to get the win over a stellar Australian opposition, breaking the drought 49-47.
AUSTRALIA 10 | 12 | 12 | 13 (47)
NEW ZEALAND 14 | 13 | 10 | 12 (49)
GS: Cynna Neele
GA: Sharelle McMahon
WA: Natasha Chokljat
C: Rebecca Sanders
WD: Peta Scholtz
GD: Kathryn Harby-Williams
GK: Liz Ellis
BENCH: Alison Broadbent, Cath Cox, Janine Ilitch, Nicole Richardson, Eloise Southby
COACH: Jill McIntosh
GS: Irene Van Dyk
GA: Belinda Colling
WA: Anna Rowberry
C: Jodi Brown
WD: Lesley Nicol
GD: Sheryl Clarke
GK: Vilimaina Davu
BENCH: Tania Dalton, Leana de Bruin, Temepara Bailey, Anna Scarlett, Adine Wilson
COACH: Ruth Aitken