A new-look England squad, many of whom were experiencing their first ever Netball World Cup, make history in South Africa and leave as silver medallists having beaten two of the world’s top teams en-route to the World Cup final.
For the world’s top four teams, the group stages got off to a perfect start, with Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica and England each winning all three of their respective pool matches. 2019 champions, New Zealand, overcame an unexpectedly tough challenge against Uganda, followed by their key shooter Nweke having to pull out of the tournament due to a knee injury, but luckily this didn’t stop the Silver Ferns sailing past Singapore to top their group. Meanwhile, 11 time champions Australia, determined to reclaim the title, were as ruthless as ever, scoring more than 80 goals in each match! Alas, we are yet to see a defender who can snatch the ball from Fowler’s hands as Jamaica made a statement in their final pool match with an 18 point difference over hosts South Africa, whilst England progressed through to the next round of the Netball World Cup with wins over Barbados, Malawi and Scotland.
Into the knock-out stages…
With stiff competition heading into the knock-out stages, the Roses needed to put a stop to the slow starts and high error counts if they wanted to improve on their third-place finish at the last Netball World Cup 4 years ago. With every game England played, the coaches managed to get all 12 players on court, with many different combinations of people playing in different positions, showcasing just how versatile these athletes are.
England went on to knock out defending champions, New Zealand, in their thrilling semi-final, clinching the win in the last quarter, thanks to some brilliant intercepts by Allison and Williams, this helped push England’s score further from New Zealand’s, just like Australia in their respective semi-final against Jamaica. The victory against the Silver Ferns meant that the Roses were guaranteed at least a silver medal in South Africa, and with all eyes on the final, the pressure for England to claim a second victory against Australia in the tournament were beginning to mount.
All eyes on the final!
Roses’ head coach, Jess Thirlby, opted for the same starting seven that took on New Zealand in the semi-finals and Australia in the pool matches. But we all know the Diamonds were not going to allow a second loss, and from the first centre pass made by Allison they exuded nothing but class, immediately turning the ball over within the first couple of minutes and getting an early lead. Q1 ended level at 13-13, but going into half time the Roses trailed by 4 goals, with Australia confidently putting a growing gap between them at 23-27. The confidence beaming from Australia was noticeable by head coach Stacey Marinkovich’s choice of players, as she removed key players like Wood to the bench to allow others to get their time on court.
The ‘championship quarter’ (Q3) England were now trailing by 10 goals at 36-46 due to some questionable changes made by Jess Thirlby to see if she could launch a full team of defence to try and get back into the game for Q4. Unfortunately her bold choices didn’t quite achieve what she was hoping and the lack of Mentor and Williams in defence was clear on court. There was nothing that England could do to deny Australia their 12th Netball World Cup victory, with the Diamonds averaging 1 goal per minute throughout the entire match, seizing every single opportunity, the soreness from their loss in the pool stages giving them that absolute grit and determination to overcome the Roses.
Roses make Netball World Cup history!
The World Cup didn’t end the way that England wanted, but the Roses still made history by reaching a first World Cup final and the talented Helen Housby was named ‘Best Shooter of the Tournament’ and ‘Player of the Tournament’. After the Roses’ triumph at the Commonwealth Games in 2018, we saw a huge spike in participation figures within the UK, with 135,000 more people taking to the court to play in social and competitive leagues, with a further 160,000 after the World Cup in England in 2019. We are excited to see what impact the recent World Cup in South Africa will have on our sport moving forwards!
In 2023, Sport England confirmed (something we already knew!) that Netball was the “top sports choice for women”, and after a fantastic campaign in South Africa, the shining spotlight on Netball needs to be kept alight by all of us, establishing its place firmly as one of our most loved, participated and watched sports.
England Netball’s Chief Executive, Fran Connolly, sums up our thoughts:
“The World Cup offers a unique opportunity for us to showcase the brilliance of this sport and we are absolutely poised to capitalise on this moment which we hope will inspire a new generation of netball enthusiasts. The beauty of Netball is that there is a place for everyone, ages 5-95 to belong, flourish and soar”
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