What makes a great fan? Obviously a willingness to travel and support your team is a key attribute – and a surprisingly large contingent of English fans have made the journey to Southern Hemisphere to support the team in its quest for a medal. You can spot them all over the city, wearing their Kukri kit with pride and believing that really, this IS England’s year!
And the English are not the only fans to make the long journey – Scotland, Barbados, Fiji, Wales, all have their travelling supporters at this year’s New World Netball World Championships, wearing their national colours, clothing and flags with pride.
As well as travelling all over the world to follow the team, a great spectator keeps on cheering, whatever the score. England’s fans were in superb voice during the side’s 99-16 drubbing of Malaysia, despite the fact that the overriding feeling was sympathy for the opposition (and possibly more than a little embarrassment at the rich talent in the England squad). But Welsh fans were just as vociferous for the full 60 minutes in the face of a masterclass from the Silver Ferns, which ended with the New Zealand side 86-24 winners. And the frenzy created by the Fijian fans this evening, despite the fact that Jamaica were giving their team a very hard time 78-35, made my spine tingle – it was absolutely spectacular.
Netball fans are also extremely good at recognising great play by the opposition, despite their own allegiances. The roars of approval for the great work done by Malawi’s Mary Waya or Samoa’s Catherine Latu from the opposition’s supporters demonstrate this clearer than ever, despite the fact that the scoreline was not going in the favour of their sides.
There have been some big winners in the past two days – so what can followers of the fancied teams learn from such comprehensive victories? Certainly it is an opportunity to assess the strength in depth available in the squads – Jamaica seem to have less “in the tank” at this stage than the other top three nations, but that may just be an attitudinal thing from their bench players. Certainly, Australia’s bench were, in most cases, more impressive than the starting seven in yesterday’s game, and New Zealand have given court time to all of their 12 as well, ahead of the stronger challenges ahead.
And what do the supporters do when their sides aren’t playing? Netball fans are keen shoppers – there is much comparison of shops and bargains over a coffee in gaps between games, and they are also very keen sightseers. There is also a huge worldwide contact network of fans, who chat on a daily basis on netball websites, and it is great to see face to face relationships being established in the tented concession area outside the Trusts stadium, over the requisite Steinlager, of course!
All English eyes are now focusing on South Africa, which will give a fairer assessment of the state of the English team and its matchplans. On the evidence of today’s game, at least we know the shooters are firing on all cylinders, after plenty of practice today.
Finally, a thoughts for the day:
Will Botswana end the tournament with enough fit players to take to the court? At the moment, they don’t seem to have a pair of fit knees between them!