They might have been outsized and outmuscled, but the Diamonds used all their smarts and mobility to overcome Jamaica on Saturday and set up a Commonwealth Games netball final against New Zealand.
The Jamaicans did not allow Australia any comfort in the first half, and it was only in the third quarter that the Diamonds broke free. Captain Laura Geitz kept the imposing Jamaican goal shooter Jhaniele Reid to 32 points in Australia’s 57-42 win, a performance coach Lisa Alexander praised for its composure.
Outstanding for the Australians was wing attack Madi Robinson. The pocket dynamo had a near-perfect match with 22 goal assists and four interceptions. The most vital of these were two early in the third quarter which contributed to Australia breaking out of the arm-wrestle that the first half had been. The 168-centimetre Robinson outmanoeuvred her far-larger direct opponent, Vangelee Williams, who eventually grew frustrated and conceded seven penalties on Robinson before being replaced by the even bigger Kasey Evering, who had no greater impact. Alexander lauded her players for "staying calm when we know Jamaica are very physical and will try some tricks here and there. It’s important to let the umpires take control of the game, and we were terrific at that today."
Robinson’s combination with Kimberlee Green in the first half was vital to Australia’s transfers from defence into attack, and when Green was replaced by Kimberley Ravaillion at half-time, Robinson continued to work with high efficiency and to throw some visionary passes, providing eight goal assists in the pivotal third quarter alone. "Madi was incredible," said an admiring Australian goal attack, Natalie Medhurst, who contributed 16 points to complement Caitlin Bassett’s 41. "Her feeds, her work using the ball around the circle, and her defensive effort were incredible. She’s like a little crumber back in the AFL, picking up those loose balls coming out."
Thoughts then turned to the gold medal match against New Zealand, who came back from a six-goal deficit in the final minutes to overhaul a nervous England in the other semi-final. Medhurst, looking forward to the final, said, "Our countries are both so passionate about our netball, right down to the grass roots. Off the court, believe it or not, we actually do like each other, which is a bit strange! But we want to beat the Silver Ferns, and they want to beat us."
Four years ago, New Zealand beat a heartbroken Australia for the gold medal in Delhi. For the four Australian players who remain from that match, and for the team as a whole, Alexander said, "There’s a lot of burning desire and hurt there. You can’t ignore it. In my opinion it drives us further. It’s a positive."
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