Curtains close on African World Cup

The 2023 Netball World Cup provided great entertainment on the court.

All 16 participants brought their A-game to the competition that was hosted for the first time on African soil since its inception 60 years ago.

The loud and captivating singing from fans brought a different flavour to the global spectacle.

Australia took the title after a highly-contested final match. The 2023 title is their record-extending 12th title. The Diamonds are one of three winners of the competition.

They had to fend off England to secure their title. The two sides had met earlier in the second preliminary stages where the Roses defeated the Diamonds for the first time in a World Cup match.

Stacey Marinkovich has repaid the faith Netball Australia had in her when they extended her contract which will see her remain at the helm for another four years, including the 2027 World Cup to be held in Sydney. Winning the title is the perfect way to cap her first World Cup as the Diamonds coach.

Marinkovich says they worked together as a team to achieve this goal.

“We set a goal together and when you step into this job there’s an expectation of performance. I think we created an experience not only in how we fight in the game but how we have come together as a group. I couldn’t be more proud of how they have conducted themselves around this entire tournament. You always want the win but you want to cherish the moment and I guess winning helps you do that but every little step across this journey for the last two and a half years has been an incredible experience,” says Marinkovich.

MAKING HISTORY

The Roses also made history, qualifying for the final for the first time in 48 years.

Coach Jess Thirlby says the team is proud of this massive feat.

“Credit where credit is due but the difference between playing in 12 finals versus one is a tough lesson. We do feel a bit bruised by the margin but ultimately we have to acknowledge what we have just done and we will take those learnings moving forward. I strongly believe it’s not the only final, you will see the Roses team in the future,” says Thirlby.

Jamaica celebrated their Independence Day with a bronze medal. They defeated the 2019 winners, New Zealand 52-45. This is the Sunshine Girls’ fourth bronze medal, having bagged the first one in 1991.

AFRICA’S EXPLOITS

Meanwhile, Uganda got the better of the hosts in the fifth-place playoff match. The She Cranes came out victorious after they had lost to the Spar Proteas in the second preliminary pool stages.

The Fred Mugwera-led side capitalised on South Africa’s fumbles from the early stages of the first quarter to rattle them. Although the Proteas came back and ended the first half with levelled scores, they were not able to put in a commanding performance to win the match. The fifth place is Uganda’s highest-ever finish in the World Cup.

Mugwera says they knew they would not allow themselves to lose to the Proteas again to show that they are the best team in Africa.

“I think the match went the way we wanted it to go because as we were going into that match, I told the players that we shouldn’t make the mistakes that we made in the first match we played against them. We gave them a lot of respect and because of that they went ahead with many goals, when we tried to cover up those goals, in the fourth quarter we were tired and could not. This time I told them that we should start on a very high note, and that is where we should end. The game would not be over until it is over with the final whistle. This is what they did and we eventually won. I am very pleased with my girls. They listened to the instructions,” says Mugwera.

The Proteas dropped from their finish in the 2019 edition, where they made it into the semifinals. The loss to the She Cranes is the second in the space of less than a year. At the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, the She Cranes defeated the Proteas in the playoff for 5th/6th position

“We wanted to obviously win. It was important for us to try to give it our best shot and retain our ranking, retaining our ranking is very important. We are disappointed. It is disappointing to lose against Uganda at home. We would have loved to finish better than what we did. I think there were a lot of nerves coming into this game and this was evident in how we started the game. As soon as we found our rhythm, we kept going,” says Msomi.

The Malawi Queens are the other African team to have finished in the top 10 of the competition. They faced Tonga for the second time in the tournament and came out victorious to take the seventh position.

Zimbabwe completes the list of African teams in this year’s competition. Although the Gems dropped from their World Cup debut, they managed to finish on a high with a win over Barbados to take the 13th position.

Individual awards

Best attack player- Helen Housby (England)

Best mid-court player- Kate Heffernan (New Zealand)

Best defence player- Courtney Bruce (Australia)

Player of the tournament- Helen Housby (England) -SuperSport

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