Silver Ferns make experience count in final win
lONDON • A Sunday ago, cricket fans in New Zealand were heartbroken after the country came excruciatingly close to a maiden World Cup victory, only to lose to hosts England on total boundaries scored.
Seven days later, the Silver Ferns, runners-up to Australia at the last three Netball World Cups, helped to ease that pain – stunning the champions 52-51 to claim their first title in 16 years in Liverpool.
“It’s been hard work as Australia have been the benchmark in netball, but Liverpool has been amazing,” said Maria Folau, 32, who top-scored for the Kiwis with 28 goals.
Experience told in the end as two others in their 30s, player of the match Casey Kopua, 34, and Laura Langman, 33, starred for the oldest team in the quadrennial Cup as they soaked up the pressure in a tense final quarter to prevail.
New Zealand slumped to fourth at last year’s Commonwealth Games after losing to eventual silver medallists Australia in the semi-finals on the Gold Coast. And coach Noeline Taurua, hired on a part-time basis in the aftermath, felt the win was a boost for the sport back home.
“I’m quite speechless… for us to come out and win this, it’s huge for our netball community and for New Zealand,” said the former Silver Fern, who continued to coach Sunshine Coast Lightning in Australia’s domestic competition in the build-up to the World Cup.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who was up at 4am to watch the showdown, felt the team “deserved huge recognition for not only that final, but for their performance”.
She added: “You could see their heart and soul went into that last match and the whole tournament. It was an amazing final to watch.”
Cricket vice-captain Tom Latham also tweeted his congratulations to the team, with seven of them from the 2015 side, for “making Kiwis proud”.
For Australia, the youngest team in the last four, it is the first time they have won neither the World Cup nor the preceding year’s Commonwealth Games – they lost 52-51 to England in last year’s final.
Diamonds coach Lisa Alexander denied the four changes she made from the side that beat South Africa in the semi-final was the cause of the defeat. She added: “I don’t think you have a knee-jerk reaction automatically on a one-goal loss.
“They are young women who wanted to show the netball world, especially in Australia, that they are the real deal. So they are hurting right now.”
But goal attack and three-time world champion Natalie Medhurst was not buying it, saying: “It’s not a knee-jerk reaction because they lost last year as well. It’s been something that has been happening for the last 12 to 18 months.”
England beat South Africa 58-42 for their sixth bronze, their third in a row, as coach Tracey Neville, sister of former Manchester United footballers Gary and Phil, took charge for the final time.
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