womensportreport.com - BLOG DAY 2
Netball top of the agenda once again with the Captain’s Call at the waterfront in Auckland’s harbour today – one of the most beautiful settings for a press conference ever! And just to prove how popular netball is in this country, the turn out from the media was spectacular – tv crews, radio crews, cameramen, journalists, internet bloggers, the room was packed.
Captains of 15 of the teams taking part in the competition were in attendance – Botswana still finding it hard to get through the bureaucracy of visas and flights, were due to arrive in the afternoon. Sitting in front of a black velvet backdrop, their multi-coloured uniforms looked amazing in the spring sunshine and, tantalisingly, the ultimate prize – the World Championships trophy – was only an arm’s length away, on a plinth. One of the tv commentators unkindly said that the trophy looked like a piece of a telegraph pole, but this did nothing to squash the excitement among the captains about the prize they have been training for for the past four years.
After England’s improvement in the past yearm, Amanda Newton, the England captain, was as in demand for interviews after the event as Liz Ellis of Australia and Adine Wilson of New Zealand. And she was in confident mood, telling the assembled journalists that there is still more to come from the England squad, and just how confident they are – all positive signals!
Of course, all the teams involved in the New World Netball World Championships are feeling confident, but none more so than Malawi’s Peace Chawinga, who drew gasps from some of the Kiwi press when she asserted that her team is not here to make up the numbers but expects to win against the reigning world champions when they meet in the opening game of the competition. As Peace put it, “We know we can win a quarter, so all we have to do is win four of them.” And as anyone who saw Malawi’s 65 pass passage of play in last year’s meeting between the two at the Commonwealth Games will assert, there’s certainly no reason why Malawi should not cause their own shock right at the start of the competition.
All of the captains are desperate to get going in the competition – as Ursula Pritchard of Wales put it, “We’ve been training so long – we just want to get going!”
Lesley MacDonald of Scotland is equally impatient – but her team’s preparation has been slightly different from the others. The Scottish squad arrived in New Zealand a week ago, and has been staying on a farm owned by squad member Anna Ferguson’s family. And, as McDonald said, the change of scene has been an eye opener for her squad: “Lots of us worked right up to the last minute, so it’s been very different to find ourselves on a ranch out of the city! We’ve played some practice matches against local teams, and all we want to do now is get going!”
And with 24 hours to go before the tournament’s opening ceremony, that spirit is echoed by most of Auckland – the tension is definitely mounting!