Seven up for Oz

Julie Welch sees Australia waltz to victory in netball's World Championship

AT THE National Indoor Arena, Birmingham, Australia were about to play South Africa in the final of the ninth World Netball Championship. The big question was, who on earth, on a day like yesterday, would have gone indoors to watch 14 athletes from faraway play out a game that in this country rates fewer column inches than Scrabble?

Plenty, as it turned out. Lasting two weeks, it had been said that this tournament was a tad too long and on some days the women were playing to the sort of numbers that would have closed a theatrical production. But the finalists pulled a crowd, lots of whom were sitting behind walls of green and gold balloons. You may have passed through Earl's Court yesterday and been reminded of a ghost town. Every Kiwi and Oz in Britain seemed to have arrived in Brum to watch Australia beat South Africa. "It's a national sport over there," said the nice woman from the tournament office. "They're like Manchester United."

This is because, Down Under, real men play netball. They have their own leagues. Netballers of both genders are stopped in the street, slapped on the back and asked for autographs. Of the eight previous world championships which have been held since 1963, Australian women had won six and finished runners-up twice. Now they have won seven. It would be almost boring, except they are so brilliant to watch.

It is usually New Zealand who run them close, but this year the Kiwis have had to settle for bronze. They beat England in the third and fourth place play-off on Friday night.

South Africa played in the first two world championships before disappearing into the tunnel of apartheid. In the stands here they had a bunch of supporters who sang those songs which get you in the back of the throat.

In the Milo championships last February, Australia beat them fluently in all three encounters, but the South Africans were the ones who came up with the star of this tournament. Irene Van Dyk is the youngest (23) and the tallest (190cm ) of the team and its highest scorer. She plucks the ball out of the air as if it has been waiting for her all its life. She was, as ever, marvellous yesterday but Australia were overwhelmingly the better team.

By the end of the first quarter they were 17-9 up, 31-23 ahead by the end of the second and 51-35 up after the third. In the fourth quarter, South Africa strung together four goals without reply but Australia were too far ahead for it to matter, and in the dying seconds their final goal went through the hoop to clinch it 68-48.

Afterwards, South Africa were defiantly sparky. "The last 25 minutes they really started moving in sync," said Debbie Hammon, their captain. "Those were beautiful fluid movements and I hope the crowd appreciated it because we did."

"It was a real thrill," said Michelle Fielke of Australia. "It never gets any less of a thrill. It's just brilliant."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant

£14500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for an experie...

Recruitment Genius: Canteen Manager Required

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's Frozen...

Recruitment Genius: Canteen Assistants Required

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's Frozen...

Recruitment Genius: Facilities & Operational Administrator

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting position has risen ...

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum