So the first official stamp has been placed by Stacey Marinkovich as head coach of the Australian netball Diamonds team.
The Matildas’ Round of 16 defeat to Norway may have ended their FIFA World Cup aspirations. However, along with the cricket, the World Cups just keep on coming.
The Australian Diamonds go into camp this week ahead of the Netball World Cup to be held in Liverpool in the UK.
The action kicks off on July 12, and Australia will have their sights set on four straight World Cup victories.
Let’s take a look at the competition pools, the key match-ups, favourites for the cup and the key players to watch.
Teams are split into four groups of four depending on their world ranking. The top four seedings in order are Australia, England, Jamaica and New Zealand. The groups are as follows.
|Group A||Group B||Group C||Group D|
|Northern Ireland||Malawi||South Africa||Uganda|
|Zimbabwe||Barbados||Trinidad and Tobago||Scotland|
The Preliminaries Stage 1 of the Cup involves a round robin between the four teams in each group, with the top three from each group progressing to the next stage.
Stage 2 joins the top three teams from each of Group A and Group B (becoming Group F) and Group C and Group D (becoming Group G). The bottom ranked teams in each group become Group E and play off for 13th–16th spots.
The way Stage 2 works is relatively easy to understand. For Group F for example, Australia will play every team from Group B, with their points carrying over from Stage 1. By the end of this stage, teams in Group F and Group G will have played each other once.
From there, the semi-final match ups will be between the winner of Group F and the runner up of Group G, and the winner of Group G and the runner up of Group F.
The grand final of the World Cup takes place on the 21st July, just nine days after the tournament begins. Nine games stand between the Diamonds and World Cup glory.
The expectation is that the top four seeds will clearly progress to the semi final stage, but the reality may be somewhat murkier.
New Zealand vs Malawi – 12th July
The Commonwealth Games campaign in 2018 was a vicious reality check for New Zealand, with their lowest point being reached with a 57-53 shock loss to Malawi. By the time they play, it will be 15 months since that international and the Silver Ferns will be keen for some type of revenge.
It is questionable though whether the lessons have been learned. Maria Folau and Laura Langman have been granted special exemptions to play in Australia’s Super Netball league but the rest of the squad are restricted to playing in New Zealand’s domestic league.
While you can understand the reasons for New Zealand netball to maintain a good standard in their domestic league, it is nowhere near the standard of Super Netball and the players are missing out on the intensity reached in every game on this side of the Tasman. It may cost them again.
South Africa vs Jamaica – 14th July
If there is going to be an upset on the right hand side of the draw, this is it. Jamaica’s nine-goal victory over South Africa in last year’s Commonwealth Games was not an accurate reflection of just how close that match up was. Scores were level at half time before Jamaica finally got on top.
South Africa are boasting several team members with Super Netball experience, including goal shooter Lenize Potgieter and goal defence Karla Pretorius. However, with Romelda Aiken returning from injury and Jhaniele Fowler-Reid in great form at the West Coast Fever, Jamaica should win.
Australia vs New Zealand – TBD
If New Zealand were to lose to Malawi, they would be playing for their survival in the tournament. If they do instead get the two competition points from the Malawi game, the loser from this traditional match up will likely play tournament host and Commonwealth Games champions, England, in the semi final stage.
While Jamaica themselves would not be an easy semi final opponent, England have a team clearly capable of winning the World Cup.
While some upsets will definitely occur, it is difficult to see a World Cup final that doesn’t involve Australia or England. It would be the final competition organisers are hoping for and would decide the rightful no.1 team in the world. Since the Diamonds’ heartbreaking one-goal loss in the Commonwealth games final, these teams have faced off a number of times, with the wins relatively evenly split.
Following a large number of retirements after the Commonwealth Games, the Australian team takes on a new look. It’s a comparatively young squad but, with all playing in Super Netball, they are definitely not lacking in experience.
Players to watch
Kelsey Browne: Now at the Collingwood Magpies after a couple of seasons with the Sunshine Coast Lightning, Browne is one of the best mid-courters in the world, with her speed matched by her quick hands and superb feeds into the goal circle.
Steph Wood: The make-up of the Australian attack is still unclear but, for me, Wood is Australia’s best goal attack. In 2014, she was at the netball crossroads. A junior star, she spent time at the AIS but couldn’t get a contract with a team at the then ANZ Championships. Natural talent had got her so far.
Rather than walk away, she worked hard on her fitness and the rest is history. Wood spent some time at the Sunshine Coast Lightning with captain Caitlin Bassett and their combination is first class.
For England, reigning Commonwealth Games and World Cup champions would confirm them as the best team in the world. With the majority of the team playing Super Netball, this World Cup is going to the wire.
Players to Watch
Jo Harten: A shooter with the GWS Giants, Harten has established herself as one of the premier Goal Attack and Goal Shooters in the world. For someone so tall, she possesses great mobility and has a long range on her shot. She will pose all sorts of problems for defenders.
Geva Mentor: At 34 years of age and playing with the national team for 18 years, Mentor is a real key to this England team. In fantastic form for Collingwood, she is arguably the best defender in the world.
How to watch
After successful TV ratings for Super Netball, Channel Nine will be broadcasting the World Cup. All Australian games will be on free-to-air TV, while every match in the tournament will be available on 9Now.
For those left from the Diamonds Commonwealth Games squad, the fire will still be burning deep. There is nothing between Australia and England but I feel that desire for revenge may prove just enough. Australia to win.