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."

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

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Legal Secretary

£17000 - £17800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to work ...

Recruitment Genius: Ad Ops Manager - Up to £55K + great benefits

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a digital speci...

The Green Recruitment Company: Operations Manager - Anaerobic Digestion / Biogas

£40000 - £45000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Operation...

Recruitment Genius: Implementation Consultant

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This global leading software co...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent