AUSTRALIA has ended its Commonwealth Games gold medal drought in emphatic fashion with a crushing 58-40 victory over arch rivals New Zealand in the Final in Glasgow.
Australia took control of the match late in the first half and, with the memories of heartbreaking losses to New Zealand in the gold medal play-off at Melbourne in 2006 and Delhi in 2010 spurring them on, reclaimed the title of champions of the Commonwealth for the first time since 2002.
The emotion spilled out onto court at the final whistle and Australian coach Lisa Alexander said she was “enormously proud” of her team’s campaign over the past 10 days.
“They really have done everything that I’ve asked them to do and they’ve been amazing,” Alexander told Channel 10 after the match.
“They thoroughly deserve this success and we thank Australia for being right behind us. We knew everyone at home was absolutely ecstatic for us so it’s wonderful.”
Goal shooter Caitlin Bassett was outstanding for Australia with a stunning 49 goals at 92 per cent accuracy and New Zealand had no answers to combat her combination with Natalie Medhurst.
“I think we finally hit our straps in the last game and that’s what I’m most proud about,” Bassett said.
“We were prepared for a close game but we knew as soon as we got a bit of a lead we were going to push hard and that’s exactly what we did.”
Captain Laura Geitz said she never imagined that Australia would score such a crushing victory.
“To win by that much and against the Kiwis is a little bit surreal, but absolutely over the moon with the performance we put out,” Geitz said.
Geitz said the feeling in the final few minutes was one of euphoria.
“The last two minutes it did start to sink in that it’s been 12 long years since Australia had the gold medal,” Geitz said.
“It’s incredible and to come out and put out a performance like that; we’ve built all week and that was by far our best game and it’s scary how great this team can be.”
New Zealand started the match with Maria Tutaia – the hero four years ago in Delhi – at goal shooter with Jodi Brown in goal attack while Kim Ravaillion was preferred in centre over Kimberlee Green for Australia.
Australia got away to a quick start with Bassett scoring the team’s first six goals before Medhurst got on the scoreboard. Australia got out to a three goal lead late in the opening term before New Zealand fought back to level the scores at quarter-time.
In the second term Australia gradually got on top with defenders Geitz and Julie Corletto grabbing some crucial rebounds and, at the other end, Bassett was only too happy to capitalise on.
Australia got out to a five-goal lead late in the term with Bassett shooting 25 first half goals at 86 per cent accuracy.
Katrina Grant came into New Zealand’s line-up at goal defence to start the second half with Leana de Bruin going to the bench and captain Casey Kopua moving to goal keeper to try and nullify Bassett’s influence.
But Australia continued its dominance and stretched its lead to 12 goals before New Zealand reduced that to 11 heading into the final term.
Wing attack Madi Robinson said the message at half-time was not to give New Zealand an opportunity to get back into the match.
“We said this was our last half of netball and let’s make it count and play in the moment and it definitely was that championship quarter,” Robinson said.
“It was an incredible effort and right down to that final whistle we fought it right out and it’s amazing to grab that gold medal now.”
The introduction of Cathrine Latu to goal shooter to start the last quarter briefly gave New Zealand a glimmer of hope, but Australia refused to wilt and powered away in the final few minutes to record a commanding win.
“The message going into the last quarter was act like we’re 11 goals down and don’t take the foot off the pedal,” Geitz said.
“We knew that we had to keep that pressure and that relentless defence on to make sure we got the win.”
While Australia kept the same combination on court for the entire 60 minutes, all 12 athletes in the squad can take satisfaction that everyone played a key role over the campaign to earn the country’s third Commonwealth Games netball gold medal.
AUSTRALIA (58) defeated NEW ZEALAND (40)
Australia shooting stats:
Caitlin Bassett 49/53 (92%)
Natalie Medhurst 9/11 (82%)
New Zealand shooting stats:
Maria Tutaia 22/31 (71%)
Jodi Brown 11/16 (69%)
Cathrine Latu 7/7 (100%)