Games-Netball (Wrap up)

KUALA LUMPUR, 21 Sept 98 (Bernama):

BY Shamila Misra

World champions Australia today walked away with the gold in netball, which made its debut in the 16th Commonwealth Games at Juara Stadium in Bukit Kiara here.

Beating New Zealand 42-39, the seven-time world champions proved their supremacy in the Commonwealth challenge scoring 12-12, 12-7, 7-12 and 11-8 in the four quarters against the Kiwis.

The two teams battled hard, fought neck to neck until the last few minutes of the last quarter when the Aussies got a break from few good shots from their skipper and goal shooter Vicki Wilson and attacker Sharelle McMohon for the three-goal victory.

"I am happy.. we expected a tough battle", Jill Mc Intosh, Australian coach said.

Kiwi coach Yvonne Patterson said: "luck is not with us today." Earlier fourth seeded England shocked world number two South Africa 56-54, in a close two-goal win, for the bronze medal.

"We are happy with what we achieved, though we managed only the bronze," England team manager Maureen Mead said.

Both teams battled closely with South Africa leading by one goal at half time (28-27). They lost the first quarter 11-17 but made up in the next with 17-10 lead.

But England clinched the third quarter 19-13 with a six-goal lead and despite scoring three less in the last quarter with 10-13, they earned a two-goal victory.

South African coach Marlene Wagner said: "its dissapointing. I am upset with the defence."

There were 12 teams in the race for the first ever netball medals in the Games.

Australia, England, Jamaica, Barbados, Canada and Malaysia were in Pool A with South Africa, New Zealand, Cook Islands, Malawi, Wales and Sri Lanka in Pool B, playing five matches each in the preliminary rounds Australia and New Zealand topped the two pools with 10 points each from five wins, followed by England and South Africa with eight points of four wins.

The top seeds made a comfortable entry in the semifinals except for the second seed South Africa who struggled against Cook Islands and Malawi to bag a semifinal berth.

In the first semifinal the Assies registering a comfortable 68-38 victory over South Africa. New Zealand trounced England 70-30 in the other semifinal match.

Jamaica, who put up an excellent performance even without their star player Oberon Pitersson, missed the opportunity to win a medal, losing their match against England by a solitary goal (51-52) in the preliminaries.

But the Jamaicans gave a tough time to even the world's best, giving them some anxious moments.

Probably Pitterson, a professional basketballer and national netball player, said to be busy with her basketball team in Turkey, could have improved prospects for Jamaica who finished third in Pool A with six points.

Barbados followed with four points, Canada with two and Malaysia failed to win any match in Pool A.

Cook Islands and Malawi displayed some good netball in Pool B scoring five and four points respectively.

Wales managed three points, from a win and a tie with Cook Islands, and Sri Lanka failed to register any win.

Netball, a new game in the 16th Commonwelath Games was well received by the participants who put in their best show for the spectators with their excellent performance.

"Its a good start ... we are aiming for netball's debut in Olympics too", Vicki Wilson, captain of the winning team said.

"Its great ... fantastic" South Africa coach Marlene Wagner said reacting to netball's debut in the Games.

Netball's inclusion in the 16th Commonwealth Games would see more participants in the Games, she said.

"Its amazing what people have done in a short span of time," the Silver Firns said, commenting on the indoor Juara Stadium which came up within months for the event and meeting the international standards.

But in the 1000 capacity stadium there was poor turnout on most occasions except for the final day, possibly due to host country's falling out of the medal race within the first two rounds of preliminaries.

The game, invented in America in 1891 by James Naismith, a Canadian, and initially called basketball, is very popular in Australia, New Zealand, America and Europe but yet to get popular in Asian countries.

It was accepted as a demonstration sport in 1986 Commonwealth Games in Auckland, New Zealand, and was granted "recognised" status by the International Olympic Committee in 1995.


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