Carribbean adventure forged lifelong friendship

01042015113352-0001South Australia’s Julie Francou walked away from the 1979 World Netball Championships with more than just a winner’s medal.

The prestigious titles, held in Trinidad and Tobago, was the first time that Francou had travelled overseas as part of the Australian team and it was on this trip that she began to develop a friendship with another bright young talent in shooter Anne Sargeant that continues today.

Francou said the pair had known each other through representing their respective states at national championships.

However their bond developed by the hotel pool in Port-of-Spain and over the weeks they spent training and preparing to defend Australia’s world title crown won four years earlier in New Zealand.

“It was my first trip overseas so it was a bit of an eye opener and I think it was the first time that Anne had been away as well,” Francou said.

“We were the two youngest in the team – and a fair bit younger than the rest. I got to know her pretty well from that trip onwards.

“Everyone admired her because of her height and her presence on court and her stunning ability. She was such an accurate shooter; I loved it when she was on my side and not playing against her.

“She’s been a wonderful friend over the years.”

Profile 1When the team arrived in Trinidad and Tobago, they were confined to their hotel except for match day and coach Wilma Shakespear allowed the players 30 minutes to relax by the pool every day.

Francou said she and Sargeant soaked up every second.

“Wilma patrolled the pool area in case anyone was overdoing it but Anne and I set our watches for the 30 minutes and we’d go out and sunbake,” Francou said.

Even before the tournament began, Francou said the Australian team’s arrival in the Carribbean was met with fanfare.

“Before we left we were briefed on the safety of the country and everywhere we went we were escorted by armored police,” she said.

“When got over there we were told we had to be low key on arrival but we finished up on the front page of the local paper because we were greeted at the airport by a steel band and all the girls started dancing and clapping.

“So our low-key entry ended up being splashed over the front of the paper saying `the Aussies have arrived’. But we enjoyed our welcome and how we were treated.”

On court, Gaye Teede aggravated an injury which meant that Francou was thrown into the centre position for her Test debut in Australia’s opening match against Scotland.

Australia might have won the match 50-15, but Francou recalls that captain Margaret Caldow was far from impressed by her efforts – and let her know in the three-quarter time huddle.

“I think I was a bit overawed by the whole situation. My opponent in the centre had very red hair and fair skin and she wore a kind of milk maid’s hat,” Francou said.

“I think I spent half the game looking at her hat because I’d never seen that in my life; coming in at three-quarter time Marg gave me an absolute blast for the way I was playing.

“It was the best thing that happened to me because after that I felt part of the team.”

01042015113334-0001The 1979 world championships is the only time there have been joint winners, with Australia, New Zealand and the hosts Trinidad and Tobago all sharing the title after finishing with eight wins and a loss each.

Australia defeated the Silver Ferns 54-37 but lost to Trinidad and Tobago 40-38.

Finals were put back on the agenda after what happened in 1979,” Francou said.

“After losing to Trinidad, there was a bit of relief in the fact that we were still world champions, even though we had to share with two other countries, because of the effort you’d put in to get there.”

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.