At 4:59pm on Thursday, June 2, Super Netball announced that they had sold the 2022 grand final to Perth with just two rounds of…
With the final fingernails clipped, the scones prepared and the kettle on, it was time to settle in for Day One of the Netball World Cup.
I was up bright and early for the teams unfortunate enough to be scheduled in the first game of the day – Fiji and Wales. At the ungodly time of 9:50am, the teams managed to put on a good show, despite the fact that the only people who should have to play netball at that time of the morning are eight-year-olds and Western Australians. World number eight Wales beat their slightly higher-ranking opponents 59-52.
The rest of the Day One games ran fairly well to script, with Jamaica stomping all over Samoa, Singapore edging out Sri Lanka, Malawi taking the African bragging rights over South Africa and Uganda giving Zambia an absolute bath (though not a literal one, they decided to stick with just the game of netball instead).
The top three rounded out the day by each taking on opponents they could beat with one hand tied behind their backs.
England were first up and – as if they haven’t caused their neighbours enough misery over the past thousand years – came out and beat up on Scotland, winning 60-19.
It was a somewhat uninspiring victory, with the English team rumoured to be sulking about coming halfway across the world just to play ‘those bloody porridge munchers’ again. They considered constructing a wall to keep the Scots out of the stadium, but settled for doing a really half-hearted job of playing netball and winning anyway.
Next up were our vowel-deficient friends from across the Tasman, taking on Barbados. The Silver Ferns chose to start with what appeared to be their strongest line up, which was probably to give the players a chance to meet each other.
Known sock fiend Maria Tutaia was at it again, stopping short of wearing a full body compression suit in Barbados colours and settling for some plain black long socks and some kind of shoulder contraption. The Kiwis used their whole bench throughout the somewhat scrappy match, before ushering their team of pre-schoolers off for a nap.
With the crowd building and starting to get excited about the imminent walkover from the Australian Diamonds, an evil-sounding voice was heard throughout the arena.
“Lock the doors!” the voice cackled and the echo of doors slamming and locking was deafening. The crowd looked at each other in horror. What was happening? Were we to be tortured? Whipped? Forced to watch the Ashes?
But what transpired was even worse than anything we could have imagined. A perky primary school teacher was introduced as our “Crowd Leader” and she was to run us through the tasks we would need to endure in order to be allowed to watch the final game of the day and finally see our Diamonds on court.
Hours – or what felt like hours – passed as we were taken through our paces and inducted into the cult of the Opening Ceremony. At the end of it all, we were bruised, beaten and just when we thought the pain could get no worse, Tony Abbott made a speech. After copious first aid was applied to revive the distressed spectators, finally, finally we got to see the game.
I don’t know about you, but from my point of view, there is really nothing better than seeing Australia beat teams who have so little in the way of funding and facilities that they have no hope of ever competing with us. It’s just such a nice feeling.
So after the Diamonds clarified with the umpires that yes, they were expected to take on Trinidad AND Tobago, the game was on. As the teams were announced, it was a close battle between the Sharni Army and Green’s Generals to see who could make the most noise when their fearless leaders were announced. Honourary Sydneysider Sharni Layton took the win there, with real Sydneysider Green putting out a message to her fans to step it up and stop embarrassing her in her home city.
Australia started with a strong – but not their strongest – line up and the match was fairly tight early on.
The most concerning part was the obvious hypnotism that had been used on Australian Goal Shooter Caitlin Bassett to convince her that the ball was a giant cupcake.
While this worked well to ensure she was always hungry for the ball, it also meant that she refused to let anyone else take the ball after it went through the ring, fighting the poor defenders who were just trying to get it back for the next centre pass. It also meant the ball had to be changed at half time when the umpires noticed a big bite had been taken out of it.
After half-time, the Diamonds emptied their bench like it was loose change at the corner shop and came out firing, with all players wanting to put their stamp on the match. Tired of these damn Australians getting all the cheers, T&T Goal Shooter Afeisha Noel decided to step it up a notch, with an exciting falling out of court shot, followed by a beautiful slide into the splits in the goal circle, for which the judges awarded all 10s.
It did nothing to stop the Diamond domination though, and Australia romped home to win 73-32 and the crowd were finally freed, reminiscing about the lives they’d had before this day started and wondering if their families were waiting for them, or had moved on with their lives.
Strap yourselves in folks, there are still nine days of this thing to go! Bring it on.