Sneaky Aussies defied critics for title

1983_2AUSTRALIA went into the 1983 Netball World Cup in Singapore the defending champions, but even before the team departed our shores they were given no chance of retaining the title.

Only two players – captain Julie Francou and shooter Anne Sargeant – remained from the side that were joint winners of the world title four years earlier in Trinidad and Tobago with coach Joyce Brown picking a young group.

One of those was a promising goaler from Victoria named Sue Hawkins, who had made Test debut two years earlier in Brisbane.

“There had been a changing of the guard from the previous tournament and we were a relatively young team around 21, 22 years old,” Hawkins said.

“We didn’t have much support from the media and everyone was pretty much accepting that New Zealand was going to win it. Back then, Trinidad & Tobago were also very talented, very strong and physical.

“We were the only ones who believed in ourselves when we went away because we were a very close group.

“We had good self-belief as a team and we certainly used that. A few of us had dreams and in those we saw ourselves winning (the title).”

History shows that Australia went through the tournament undefeated, toppling the Silver Ferns by five goals in the last match to win its fifth world title.

Hawkins said Brown was an innovative coach, mapping of training sessions for individuals and the team months before they headed across to Singapore.

“Thirty years ago recovery sessions weren’t really scientifically worked out like they are now,” Hawkins said.

“We had cold showers and we’d go to the pool (after training and matches). You look back now and you’d say that was a great recovery for us when players these days get into ice baths after matches.1983_4

“All through training we had relaxation tapes that was all about relaxing your muscles to use whenever we needed to. So Joyce was pretty innovative as a coach back then.”

The tournament was played at Singapore University and all the countries stayed in the residences on campus. Hawkins roomed with Karan Smith, from New South Wales.

Once they arrived the team discovered that tournament organisers wouldn’t allow them access to the match courts for training – so Brown discovered a way around that edict.

Every morning the team would meet at around 6am and sneak down to the court, found a gap in the fence they could climb under and spent an hour being put through their paces by Brown before returning for breakfast as their opponents were rising for the day.

“Because of the heat factor, we had to get it (training) in before it got too hot,” Hawkins said.

“When we were playing it was about 95 per cent humidity. You would warm up and your whole outfit would be drenched. So it was mainly to make sure that we weren’t overheated.”

Hawkins played 28 Tests for Australia, coached England between 2008 and 2011 and is now in charge of New Zealand-based ANZ Championship side the Mainland Tactix.

Two years ago the team gathered in Adelaide during the Constellation Cup series to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their victory where they watched a replay of their match against New Zealand which determined the champion.

1983_1Hawkins said she treasures all her memories from representing Australia, especially the ’83 campaign.

“I’m very proud and there’s not a huge amount of people that can say they are world champions. So it’s an honor that I’ll never forget and I’m humbled about it was well,” Hawkins said.

“I have to thank my parents as well. The amount of hours they spent driving me up to Royal Park (in Melbourne) from Mount Eliza five, six days a week was just incredible.”

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 for the next installment.