Overcoming the odds to walk away world champs

IMG_3724Australia’s 1975 Netball World Cup campaign was a battle of attrition when New Zealand hosted the tournament for the first time.

Not only did the Joyce Brown-coached squad have to battle nature’s elements, playing 10 matches over a two-week period in front of a parochial New Zealand crowd, but the side had to overcome a health scare which threatened to derail their campaign.

There was talk of quarantining the team after players were thought to have contracted measles – but there was a relief when the ‘red spots’ were later confirmed to be flea bites, allowing the Australians to get on with defending the world title they had won four years earlier in Jamaica.

Marg Caldow_gsCaptain Marg Caldow, pictured left who was contesting her second of three world championships after being a part of the inaugural world championships in 1963, recalled the tournament which featured 11 teams from around the world.

“We had a lot of teams that were extremely competitive and that included Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago who were right up there with opportunities to win it,” Caldow, who is now an assistant coach of the Australian Diamonds, said.

“England also beat New Zealand in the rounds as well.”

In those days the Netball World Cup was played as a round robin tournament with the champion being the country who had the most wins at the finish.

Australia took out the title after winning nine of its 10 matches and drawing with New Zealand 34-all in a tense final game. England finished second with its only defeat coming against Australia and the hosts Silver Ferns in third.

Caldow said if the players thought the schedule was tough, it was nothing compared to the conditions they had to play in.

1975 Australian Netball Team profiles“These days the athletes get to play in wonderful indoor stadiums. We had to play all of ours outdoors and in Auckland the weather wasn’t the best, to say the least.

“Every day for two weeks it rained, the wind blew and it made things extremely difficult for players and umpires. We played with a leather ball and when it got wet, it was like throwing a shot put. That made passing and shooting difficult.

“We were well prepared when we arrived. We had our card games and all those sorts of things to entertain ourselves between matches.”

Brown had been Caldow’s captain when Australia won the 1963 world title.

“Joyce had coached me in the Victorian team so that transition was an easy one. I have the greatest respect for Joyce as a person and a coach,” Caldow said.

“She certainly brings out best in the team and individuals.”

The 1975 tournament was Caldow’s second appearance at the World Cup – she missed the ’71 victory – and she returned to lead Australia to victory again four years later in the Caribbean.

“I was the first Australian player to play in three winning world championship teams and I’m proud of that,” Caldow said.

“Each and every one was extremely special and has memories for me that I’ll hold forever. The key thing you always remember is your teammates, the players, coaches, support staff and being together as a team.

“Winning is the most special.”

As for the Diamonds’ prospects of making it a hat-trick of titles in Sydney this year?

“After Round 7 (of the ANZ Championship) we name a new squad that will come forward for final selection for the Netball World Cup 2015 SYDNEY and we’ve got a huge abundance of talent to choose from,” Caldow said.

“So whoever is fortunate to be selected, the coaches know they will do their very best and represent their country very well.”