Six decades after Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay first summited the world’s highest mountain, Australian netball coach Lisa Alexander continues to use the climb as a metaphor for her team’s Commonwealth Games campaign.
As Australia down South Africa in Wednesday’s final preliminary round match to book a spot in the semi-final on Saturday night (AEST), Alexander told her players after the match “it’s just another two steps”.
Chasing the country’s first Commonwealth Games gold medal in 12 years, the Australians have slowly and surely navigated their way through this campaign, building with each step towards the peak.
“We’re probably three-quarters of the way up the mountain but there’s a lot of work to do so we’ve got to keep on doing that work,” Alexander said.
“It’s just another two steps up and we’ve got to make sure that we keep improving and we’re focused on our job.
“I think our form against South Africa showed that we’re starting to get those connections and drive between defence and attack and transition ball so I’m very happy.”
Standing in the Australians way between Sunday’s shot at the summit is the formidable Jamaicans – a side that features familiar faces Jhaniele Fowler-Reid and Romelda Aiken to ANZ Championship fans.
Jamaica finished second in Pool A with four wins and a loss after going down to New Zealand 50-42 on the final day of the preliminary round.
“We now know that we’ve got Jamaica (in the semi-final) and we’ll just work hard at preparing as well as we can for them and put together a game plan that we need to be successful according to our strengths,” Alexander said.
Fowler-Reid remains one of the world’s most intimidating challenges under the post for any defender.
The 198cm target is the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games second most prolific shooter with 182 goals at 90 per cent, just 13 goals behind leader Mwai Kumwenda from Malawi.
“Everyone who knows they play against Jhaniele knows that it’s not just the one on one contest but the work that’s done up the court and we’re very aware of that and we need to do that,” Alexander said.
Standing at the opposite end of the court is likely to be shooter turned defender Aiken.
The Queensland Firebird is the highest scorer in the history of the ANZ Championship and a two-time winner of the ANZ Championship Most Valuable Player award. But in Glasgow Aiken has been playing a much different role.
“She’s been very brave and courageous having a crack at a position that she’s not used to and I thought she did very well against (New Zealand), she got a lot of good touches and we’ll need to be mindful of that and work out a plan,” Alexander said.
Australia take on Jamaica in the second semi-final on Saturday at 12.15pm (9.15pm AEST).