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…
At last, the day we’d been waiting for arrived. After nine days of pointless games and humouring all the other teams, it was time for the final.
Finally, we were going to get to see the game we’d all been waiting for – a gold medal match between Australia and New Zealand.
But no, first we had to sit through a few other games, including watching England play yet again this tournament. I mean really, hadn’t we endured enough pain? First they invite Tony Abbott and now this?
Bizarrely, many of the Australian supporters in the crowd had missed the memo that England are always the enemy in every sport and – lulled by the singing of the small band of English fans – started cheering for the Mother Country.
After a slow start, the Roses powered on thanks to the tireless efforts of Sonia Mkoloma and Serena Guthrie in defence and not even a super tall Jamaican shooting line of Jhaniele Fowler-Reid (198cm) and Romelda Aiken (196cm) could slow the rampaging pack of Englishwomen. The English were on a mission to be slightly less disappointing than they were at the Commonwealth Games last year. The Roses took the game convincingly, winning 66-44.
And then at last, the world record crowd was given what they wanted. Out came the Diamonds – as well as those pesky Silver Ferns, ready to play.
The game got off to an incredible start – providing you were supporting the ones in yellow. It was fairly miserable for the Ferns fans in the crowd, as they started realising what the cost of their tickets converted to in New Zealand dollars (approximately $123,778 NZD per ticket) and figured they were in for a pretty miserable day.
Captain Laura Geitz and her trusty sidekick Julie Corletto ran riot over the Ferns’ shooting pair of Bailey Mes and Maria Tutaia, while at the other end of the court, New Zealand goal defence Katrina Grant seemed to think that the whistle blowing and the umpire subsequently asking her to stand beside her player was a reward for a job well done and an invitation to continue to do exactly the same thing over and over again.
The Diamonds went into the first break leading by nine goals and the crowd visibly relaxed, thinking the lead would continue to build until Laura Langman was carried from the court, sobbing and begging for mercy.
It wasn’t to be though, as the Kiwis finally figured out that those guys with the whistles wanted them to follow the rules of netball, and they started to adjust accordingly. And yet, inexplicably, the Diamonds continued to score goals.
The world’s second-greatest human being ever*, Natalie Medhurst, was ludicrously calm, considering the circumstances. She glided down court, effortlessly skipping between players, zipping the ball back and forth as if it was on a string and adding a flutter of pixie dust to her deft passes into goal shooter Caitlin Bassett.
The Ferns were biding their time, not trying to win the game with each pass and intercept, but just gradually eating into the Diamonds’ margin, cutting it down bit by bit, positioning the Diamonds as the proverbial frog in a pot of cold water, not realising the water is being slowly boiled as they sit in it.
Unfortunately for Tutaia, she plugged in her bionic arm overnight, but forgot to turn it on at the powerpoint. It’s a well-known fact that bionic arms have about as much battery life as an iPhone 5, so after a couple of warm up shots, it was done and she had to rely on her regular human arm.
Fortunately, Mes’ superhuman rebounding ability was fully switched on, as she managed to be under the ring in the perfect position every single time, even taking a break in the back row of crowd as Tutaia took a shot and still managing to end up with the rebound in her hands.
On and on, the Kiwis fought back looking set to snatch the game from under the home team’s noses at any moment. But still the Diamonds held on, clinging to the match like a kindergarten kid to his mum on the first day of school.
Geitz called an injury time and ‘Our Sharni: Mayor of Sydney’ started warming up, after finally breaking free of the ropes that must have been tying her to the bench to keep her there for such a long period of time. But Geitz played on and Layton started eyeing off that Goal Shooter bib instead, loudly wondering if Bassett needed a break, as her shooting arm must be tired.
With three minutes to go in the game and the Diamonds up by six, it seemed that it might finally be safe to say that the trophy was staying in Australia. But like the killer who always comes back for one last scare, the Ferns weren’t quite done yet. A late flurry of goals saw them close the gap to just three goals, before the clock beat them and the game was done.
The stadium erupted as the Diamonds celebrated and the New Zealanders were forced to consider once again why they thought Silver Ferns was an appropriate team nickname.
And so, we must leave this colourful cast of characters, as the celebrations and commiserations continue long into the week.
We, the fans, will be forced into a long, miserable period of no netball, until the Constellation Cup revives us in October.
Wait, who are we playing against in that thing?
You’re kidding right? New Zealand again?
*As discussed yesterday, the greatest ever human being is Sharelle McMahon.