Australia’s most satisfying victory at the 1971 Netball World Cup in Jamaica didn’t come against arch rivals New Zealand.
While Australia’s six-goal win over the Silver Ferns in the final match of the tournament reclaimed the title of world champion, it was the 38-37 victory over England that gave the players the most satisfaction, according to star shooter Margaret Molina.
What made the triumph even more satisfying was that Australia came from three goals down at three-quarter time to win with Molina (nee Gollan) spearheading the fightback, shooting eight of her 24 goals for the match in the last term.
“England had been extremely vocal in letting everyone know they were going to win the world title,” Molina said.
“If they had won, the headlines would have been completely different. We couldn’t really celebrate too much because we hadn’t finished the tournament yet, but it was a very satisfying win.”
Buoyed by that triumph, Australia then produced a commanding performance against New Zealand thanks to a dominant opening term.
Having relinquished the world title to the Silver Ferns in 1967, Molina said there was a steely resolve among the playing group to get it back.
“It wasn’t really discussed but everyone knew there was no way that New Zealand was going to win again. There was just a real determination among us,” Molina said.
“We won the match by six (goals) but that would have been the closest they got to us all day. We just blew them away in the first quarter. I never felt after the first quarter we were going to lose that game.”
They visited New Zealand – where they played a couple of warm-up matches – Tahiti and Mexico on route to the Caribbean.
The team spent Christmas away from home as the tournament was played either side of the New Year and Molina said they enjoyed plenty of experiences thanks to the friendly locals, including rafting down the famous Rio Grande river, pictured left.
“The local people associated with netball would come and take us on little outings,” Molina said. “We always had something special to do. We had days allocated for that. We all stayed in a university boarding house and we mixed with the Jamaican team. They taught us how to dance to reggae and braided our hair.”
“Wilma organised to take the whole team to the Raffles Hotel for a big lunch. I can still see the room with the big long table and all of us sitting down for lunch,” Molina said.
“It was a wonderful team on and off court. Because we spent so much time together, we got to know each other really well.”
Molina played 14 Tests for Australia – including being part of the triumphant 1975 world championship team – and also served as team manager for a decade, which included two more titles in 2007 and 2011, pictured left.
In 2012 she was awarded an Order of Australia Medal for her service and contribution to netball.
Molina will be a keen spectator in Sydney next month and is looking forward to catching up with many of her former teammates and reminiscing about their past glories.
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.