Days before the Australian team was scheduled to fly out for the 1987 Netball World Cup, Lisa Beehag was at work when she received a life-changing phone call.
Star defender Michelle den Dekker had suffered a foot injury at the team’s final training camp and Beehag was asked to take her place in the side heading to Scotland.
Beehag had already booked time off work to go on a holiday in Europe – but was quick to ask her boss for extra leave so she could make her international debut.
Fortunately for Beehag, she already knew the majority of the Australian team having been a regular in New South Wales state teams and national squads for many years.
“A lot of players in that team had been through the AIS (Australian Institute of Sport) together and, for the New South Wales girls, we’d been playing in teams for a number of years,” Beehag said.
“So a lot of us knew each other quite well. For a couple of the older players like Anne (Sargeant) and Janelle (Peterson), they were our leaders and made sure we knew what was going on. It was a team that worked for each other.”
“It rained an awful lot,” Beehag recalls. “We got some great sunny days, but the days when it rained it was treacherous. We tried to buy different shoes to get better grip on what was very wet and slippery courts.
“I don’t think we got any serious injuries out of it, but it just changed the way you play.”
Australia won its first six matches of the tournament before losing by a goal against Trinidad & Tobago.
Above photo: Courtesy of Netball NSW
The top four teams then played a round robin format to determine the eventual winner. Australia defeated England by four goals, drew with Trinidad & Tobago but their loss to New Zealand saw it relinquish the world title to the Silver Ferns and claim the silver medal.
Beehag said the Silver Ferns’ line-up boasted some experienced players.
“For a lot of the Australian team it was the beginning of their careers and their (New Zealand) shooters, the two Margs (Margaret Forsyth and Margharet Matenga) were just a magic combination,” she said.
“They had a sixth sense and they were able to feed off each other. Plus they had Rita (Fatialofa) feeding them, who was so strong and agile.
“Everybody wants to win and the reality is we would have all walked away disappointed that we didn’t. But at the same time you put those skills into everything you do in your life.”
Beehag made 25 appearances for Australia and, after finishing her playing days, she was an assistant coach to Jill McIntosh in the era when Australia won the 1998 and 2002 Commonwealth Games gold medals and the 1999 world championship.
She’s also coached in Canada and Singapore and was in charge of the NSW Swifts in the ANZ Championship for two seasons. During her time at the Swifts, Beehag coached two of Australia’s 2015 Netball World Cup team Kimberlee Green and Paige Hadley.
Beehag said the level of competition at this year’s Netball World Cup in Sydney will be high.
“We’ve got players that are extremely fit and passionate about what they do and are very skillful,” Beehag said.
“I don’t see the threats coming from outside New Zealand, England and Jamaica. But, in saying that, Malawi and South Africa, if you don’t play to your potential, could cause an upset.
“I see us having to play at our best to win.”
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.