Australia welcomes the world for the first time

1967-4When Australia hosted the Netball World Cup for the first time in 1967, just eight countries travelled to Perth to compete.

To put that into context, when the tournament returns to Sydney in August, 16 nations will by vying for the coveted title of world champion.

The 1967 tournament was played at Perth’s Matthew Netball Centre – then known as the Matthew Basketball Centre – and Australia were the defending champions, having won the inaugural world title four years earlier in England.

ellendarcyTeam vice-captain Ellen Darcy (nee O’Shannessy, pictured right) said it was a relatively inexperienced Australian side that travelled to Western Australia compared to its main rival, New Zealand.

“None of our team had gone to England four years earlier whereas I think about five of the New Zealand side had,” Darcy recalls.

Picture, right, courtesy of The Standard, Warrnambool

“(Australian captain) Lyn (Davey) and I were the oldest in our team but New Zealand had seven players who were 24 years or older. The pressure was on us to back up (the 1963 victory). New Zealand had started a real education program in skills training because they’d been beaten in England.

“They (New Zealand) sent a team over to play Victoria’s open side in 1965 in the first indoor match at Festival Hall and I have no doubt that they were spying on us back then. They wanted to see what we were doing fitness-wise and skills.”

Darcy said the Australian world championship team was picked following the 1966 national titles in Sydney and the nucleus of that group went on a two-week tour of New Zealand where they played eight matches against representative sides.

1967According to records, an estimated 30,000 people attended the tournament. Darcy, who celebrated her birthday the day before the opening ceremony, said she still remembers proudly walking onto court wearing the Australian uniform.

“It was amazing. I still get goose bumps now when I look at the pictures,” Darcy said. “I’ve still got the green jacket that we wore when we marched in – I still think it looks as good as the day I first wore it.”

Darcy has memories of the friendships she made with the players from the Caribbean countries Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago, Singapore and South Africa.

Australia relinquished the world crown to New Zealand after losing to the Silver Ferns in the last match of tournament by six goals.

1967-2“It was a really tough, rugged game,” Darcy said. “I think we led for more of the game than they did, but they just jumped us in the last quarter with a couple of shrewd moves in their goal circle. I remember the crowd was amazing and the atmosphere was intense.”

Darcy, who grew up in country Victoria, has remained involved in netball at various levels over the years and is still helping out with the ANZ NetSetGO program in her local town of Cobden, in Victoria’s Western District.

She is also attending this year’s Netball World Cup SYDNEY 2015 with her daughter-in-law Sheree and granddaughters Keelin, 15, and Ireland, 11 and is excited about watching the current day Diamonds in action.

Every fortnight leading into this year’s Netball World Cup we’ll feature a story from one of Australia’s past campaigns. Stay tuned to netball.com.au for the next installment.

Click here to find out more about Netball World Cup SYDNEY 2015 or to find out how to get tickets for NWC2015.