After a shock defeat in the pool group of the Netball World Cup, Australia gained their revenge over New Zealand’s Silver Ferns in today’s final, and some semblance of normal order was restored as the Diamonds secured a 58-55 victory to retain a trophy they have now won in six of the last seven competitions.
The third and fourth place match went to seeding with England overcoming Jamaica by a comfortable 22-goal margin, a positive end to the tournament against the team that denied the English a bronze medal at last year’s Commonwealth Games.
As my regular readers (the plural is a bit of a gamble...) will know, I have been following the fortunes of the Scottish Thistles, due in part to my quarter Scottish heritage, but mainly because three of the squad had graced the court for Grangetown Netball Club last season.
The Thistles lost to Fiji in the eleventh/twelfth placed play-off and in doing so finished one-place below their pre-tournament ranking. Clearly there will be an element of disappointment within the Scottish camp, but the girls’ performance should not be judged on this one result.
As mentioned before, the make-up of the preliminary draw meant that only the top two from each pool group could advance to battle it out for a position in the top eight. To be faced with games against England and Jamaica (the world nos. 3 and 4 respectively) realistically meant that Scotland could finish no higher than ninth.
They did all the needed to do in their pool games by beating Samoa; and their defeat of Barbados (ranked inside the top ten) during the subsequent qualification group was a wonderful result that ultimately set up a game with Trinidad and Tobago for the right to play-off for ninth and tenth.
The encounter with the Calypso Girls was arguably the most dramatic match of the whole competition. It was the only game that ended as a draw, with the result therefore having to be decided in extra time. To lose by a single goal in such circumstances must have been a devastating blow and with Samoa gaining a shock with over Fiji, the Thistles were left to face the seventh-ranked Pearls for the second time in three days, and the game ultimately proved one too far for Gail Parata’s squad.
Such are the fine margins that one solitary goal effectively cost Scotland the guarantee of “beating” their world ranking. So does that single goal and the subsequent loss to Fiji change the perception of the squad’s tournament from success to failure?
I certainly don’t think so. Every time the Thistles faced a lower-classified side, they emerged victorious; and they also defeated one of the sides ranked above them. They gave the sternest of tests to Trinidad and Tobago, and the first game with Fiji was only decided by a six-goal margin. It therefore seems a little harsh that Scotland’s efforts were only rewarded with twelfth place.
But elite sport can be particularly unforgiving and much as the final standings don’t tell the whole story, I suppose that in years to come, it will be that table by which all the teams will ultimately be remembered.
Scotland’s young squad will learn so much from what must have been a wonderful experience. I congratulate all the players on their achievements over the past ten days, wish them a safe journey home and every success for their individual and collective futures.
I will leave you from my abiding off-court memory of the tournament (although the Thistles' lip-synch challenge video came a close second!)....