Guar­an­teed thrills on the net­ball court

Kapi-Mana News - - SPORT -

I’ve got my fin­gers crossed that his­tory doesn’t re­peat it­self at next week’s world net­ball cham­pi­onship. The only other time the world champs were held in Sin­ga­pore was in 1983, when New Zealand played poorly and lost the fi­nal to Aus­tralia, 47-42.

It was a match to for­get for New Zealand’s two se­nior play­ers, Lyn Parker and Yvonne Wil­ler­ing, and the team lost its fo­cus badly. How­ever, it wasn’t all bad news. From the em­bers of that de­feat was born the burn­ing de­sire not to muck it up next time.

In 1987, Leigh Gibbs, Rita Fa­tialofa, Tracey Fear, Waimarama Tau­maunu, Margharet Matenga and Mar­garet Forsyth, all losers in Sin­ga­pore, made no mis­take. They were ruth­less and no team got within 10 goals of them.

Casey Wil­liams’ Sil­ver Ferns go into next week’s world cham­pi­onship as knife-edge favourites over de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons Aus­tralia.

The world rank­ings put New Zealand at No 1, Aus­tralia No 2 and day­light next. New Zealand’s rat­ing is 174 points, Aus­tralia’s 173. Eng­land is third, well adrift on 149.

There’s lit­tle to sep­a­rate the teams us­ing other mea­sures, too. New Zealand won their last ma­jor clash, the 2010 Com­mon­wealth Games fi­nal, but only af­ter dou­ble ex­tra-time. The transTas­man ri­vals re­cently split two tests in New Zealand.

Where Aus­tralia might strug­gle is that they have lost piv­otal goal at­tack and cap­tain Sharelle McMa­hon and bril­liant Queens­land wing at­tack Lau­ren Nourse to in­jury.

New Zealand have suf­fered no such key in­juries, though coach Ruth Aitken wanted to in­clude shooter Samoan Cather­ine Latu, but couldn’t be­cause of in­ter­na­tional rules about play­ers rep­re­sent­ing more than one coun­try.

For a decade New Zealand’s hopes have cen­tred around lofty goal shoot Irene van Dyk. But van Dyk is a de­clin­ing force.

She has just turned 39 and strug­gled in the Com­mon­wealth Games fi­nal.

In the two re­cent tests she was sorely trou­bled by in­tim­i­dat­ing Aus­tralian de­fender Su­san Fuhrmann.

An in­creas­ing amount of shoot­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity is fall­ing to goal at­tack Maria Tu­taia – fine if Tu­taia is hav­ing a good day.

I also have con­cerns about cen­tre/ wing at­tack, where Te­mepara Ge­orge, a hero in 2003, the last time New Zealand won the world ti­tle, is pos­si­bly past her best. Ge­orge is ris­ing 36, long in the tooth for a mid­courter.

There’s been a vast amount of talk in New Zealand about the Rugby World Cup, but I’m look­ing for­ward to the net­ball at least as much.

The rugby fi­nal is in­evitably a dull, de­fence-minded af­fair with penal­ties and of­ten drop goals de­cid­ing the is­sue.

The net­ball fi­nals, by con­trast, are pul­sat­ing and in­vari­ably close.

The prob­lem with the net­ball is that Aus­tralia and New Zealand are so dom­i­nant. There are 16 teams com­pet­ing in Sin­ga­pore – down from a high of 27 in 1995.

In New Zealand’s pool group are Trinidad and Tobago, Fiji and Wales. Three drub­bings are guar­an­teed. But the fi­nal, on July 10, will be a cracker.

This is the 13th world net­ball cham­pi­onship, dat­ing back to 1963. Aus­tralia and New Zealand have met in the fi­nal match 10 times and Aus­tralia have won eight, four by a sin­gle goal.

The av­er­age win­ning mar­gin for the 10 games is just 2.8 goals. Ex­cite­ment is guar­an­teed.

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