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Netball World Cup Day 6: The Sharni Army on the march

Sharni Layton is calling it a career. (AAP Image/Paul Miller)
Expert
12th August, 2015
7

And so ends another day of the Netball World Cup, with the Big Four graciously allowing a few other teams to get beaten by them, which was very kind.

In the curtain raiser matches of the day, Trinidad and Tobago destroyed Singapore, Fiji outlasted Barbados, Scotland overcame a slow start to comprehensively beat Sri Lanka, and Samoa had a thrilling 2-goal win over Zambia.

Finally, they stopped playing these games and got into the action.

First up, it was England, going about their usual imperialist business of beating up on a country they own. This time it was poor old Wales who copped it – most unfortunately for them, England were still in a bad mood about losing to another country they own yesterday.

Despite Welsh goal shooter Georgia Rowe being approximately 318cm and still growing, the team was unable to find her under the post often enough. Serena Guthrie starred for England, crushing all who got in her path, and forcing the Welsh to bow down at her feet and tell everyone that she had the best hair at the whole tournament.

England managed to get all 12 players on the court, even the ones who don’t play in the ANZ Championship, which is frankly rubbing it in a bit. Despite these hijinks, they managed to take the game 78-33.

Next up we had New Zealand taking on Malawi. After a tough game yesterday, the Kiwis decided to openly flaunt their complacency in Malawi’s face by resting Maria ‘Bionic Arm’ Tutaia.

There was also concern that Kayla Cullen wasn’t 100 per cent, however Laura Langman remedied the situation by telling Cullen she wasn’t allowed to wear long socks anymore, as she wasn’t cool enough for them. Suitably offended, Cullen had a superb game.

The game was a war of the rubber pogo stick-legged goal shooters, Bailey Mes for the Silver Ferns and Mwai Kumwenda for the Malawi Queens. The battle for ascendency between these two soon got ridiculous and had the game continued, it would only have been a matter of time before one of them put a hole in the roof or Kumwenda concussed both Casey Kopua and Leana deBruin with her feet simultaneously.

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The Ferns were on top early, but once the Queens settled into the game, they came at them hard. Every time the Kiwis edged out a lead and felt safe, Malawi were the horror movie villains, suddenly behind them when they looked in the mirror.

Surprisingly, quite a large part of the crowd were big Malawi fans, and strangely enough, they were all wearing green and gold, while Malawi play in red and black. Who knows what that was about? But they seemed very happy to see the Queens take it to the Ferns.

Panic buttons were pushed at the end of the third quarter and Her Majesty Tutaia, with shooting arm freshly polished, graced us with her presence on court. The move paid off late in the quarter, with her fresh legs (and always fresh arm) proving too much for Malawi, who looked exhausted by the very prospect of competing with this perfect specimen of a human.

In the end, the New Zealanders emerged victorious, 57-49.

Once again they made us wait all day and night to see our shiny Diamonds out on court. Coach Lisa Alexander decided to appease the vengeful gods (and the even more vengeful Sharni Army) by starting Sharni Layton in goal keeper.

The fact that South Africa were well below the standard of the Diamonds didn’t stop the fierce Layton from ripping them to shreds and playing as if she was in a battle for her life. One gets the feeling that she would play this way no matter what, even if the opposing team was a local group of six-year-olds or the Australian cricket team.

Hearing word that the Sharni Army was seeking world domination, the Paige Patrol were out in force in the stadium, with the young Paige Hadley even stepping into Layton’s domain and snatching some intercepts. Expect war to break out in the stands by Friday afternoon.

Meanwhile, out on court, shooters Caitlin Thwaites and Erin Bell were on fire, which disrupted the game briefly to allow them to be extinguished and clean up the mess from the sprinklers.

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The Diamonds found an even better way to insult their opponents than playing all 12 players – resting four of their top players from the game completely.

This infuriated the South Africans so much that they released a video package of their ‘Shake it off’ war dance, complete with a starring role from former Australian coach Norma Plummer. While the crowd thought it was a terribly funny piece of vision, the Diamonds understood that they had better watch their backs from now on, lest they be subjected to more of this frightening call to arms.

The fourth quarter seemed completely bizarre at first glance – the Diamonds went from playing strong, controlled netball to playing like the Mainland Tactix in the blink of an eye. The whole team forgot how to pass and wing defence Bec Bulley really regretted taking the advice given to her by her opponent Bongiwe Msomi to lather her hands up with butter for a great moisturising effect.

However, it soon became clear that Layton had spent three-quarter time paying off all her teammates to throw as much ball away as possible to allow her to take a whole bunch of rebounds and intercepts. Fortunately, that also didn’t allow the South Africans to score very often, so the Diamonds still ran away with the win 66-31.

Tomorrow Australia takes a well-deserved rest day, which they will spend eating grapes peeled for them by their legions of fans. They return to the court on Friday to play Wales – or perhaps they will have their fan-servants perform that task for them as well.

So please excuse me, I’m heading off to peel some grapes and lay my claim to the centre bib. See you on court!

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