The party’s over, after seven days of fierce competition.
And while for some the hangovers from the champagne celebrations will be welcomed on the long flights home, for many the headaches are just beginning.
Certainly, the England team will have much to contemplate as they travel back to the UK, after falling 53-52 to familiar foes Jamaica. They never seemed to get going, appeared to be without a game plan and in some cases, didn’t look like they wanted to be on the court at all. Thank heaven for Cookey and Brownfield, whose spectacular shooting kept England in the game, and Mentor, whose tireless work against the towering Aiken was rewarded with several key intercepts. The England team only really started to play in the final five minutes of the game and while the scoreline was tantalisingly close, it flattered to deceive. Trailing badly until the fourth quarter, England were simply not hungry enough for the win.
National pride and fierce passion were certainly the order of the day in the thrilling gold medal match which Australia won 42-38 over reigning champions New Zealand. From the first strains of the Australian national anthem right through to the final whistle, the atmosphere in the Trusts Stadium was way beyond electric – and while Australia sizzled, New Zealand stormed. The need to win was etched on every player’s face throughout the game and the Kiwi team’s disappointment at the end of the game was eased by the knowledge that they had come up against a team at the peak of its powers.
Adine Wilson’s speech at the end of the game was one of the most touching and most heartfelt things I have ever heard – a supreme diplomat, and a consummate captain, Wilson thanked sponsors, spectators, support staff and the whole audience in a witty yet passionate two minute speech that left many with tears in their eyes. Casey Williams, one of the undoubted players of the tournament and certainly the most impressive of the Silver Ferns during the final, was inconsolable at the loss – playing for her country is the most important thing in her life, and, sobbing uncontrollably on the shoulder of the NZ physio, her pain was apparent to all around.
So, as the thunder sticks are deflated, the rubbish swept up and the bottles put into recycling bins (crikey, the Kiwis like to drink a LOT of wine at netball matches!), the world can reflect on a tournament that had it all: passion, skill, upsets, and bags of pride. Certainly, Doug the driver for the England team had pride in his job during the week – a fiercely loyal Kiwi, he was converted by the England squad and said, over a drink after the play offs, that working with the team had been the proudest two weeks of his life.
Here’s hoping that the squad and the new England coach, whoever that will be, can revive that national pride and reintroduce the passion into their play – four years is a long time to wait for the next shot at a world title.