Bruised, battered and wounded – not in physique, however in satisfaction – the Diamonds hobbled into Saturday’s Commonwealth Video games semi last in opposition to the host nation England. The historic loss to Jamaica solid its shadow over the upcoming match. A loss was not essentially a priority in itself – in 2015 the Diamonds misplaced a pool match to New Zealand and went on to win the gold medal match in opposition to the identical opposition.
However a loss to Jamaica was emblematic of a brand new world order. It was the primary time Australia had misplaced to Jamaica at a serious match. Now not are Australia and New Zealand the untouchable favourites to be feared by any and all opposition. Within the not-too-distant previous, a semi last in opposition to England would have been merely a formality, a mildly testing heat as much as the primary occasion of a trans-Tasman last. However in 2022, the Diamonds got here head to head with the very actual risk that for the primary time ever, they might not even contest the gold medal match.
The one-goal losses to England and New Zealand, within the final Commonwealth Video games and World Cup finals respectively, damage the Diamonds and stripped their trophy cupboard naked. However not being within the last to start with enters the realms of the exceptional.
With simply over 48 hours passing between their last pool match and the semi last the Diamonds needed to discover a approach to flip that wounded satisfaction right into a match-winning efficiency. It might simply have gone the opposite means. A group that’s dealt the blow of an sudden loss can activate one another, search for someplace to put the blame and fall even deeper right into a gap.
At some phases of their semi last match it appeared just like the Diamonds might have headed down that path. After they appealed to the umpire as an alternative of chasing down a unfastened ball. After they acquired caught up in pointless physicality. After they labored arduous to create a turnover and instantly threw it away. Any of those cases might have despatched them spiralling into the bronze medal play off.
However all through the match, alongside these moments of insanity, the Diamonds saved on displaying essential flashes of calm and readability. Captain Liz Watson discovered methods to regular herself, to eat up a couple of seconds on the clock and provides her group a second to breathe each time she needed to set a penalty. Gretel Bueta was a rock in aim shooter and saved on releasing the stress at key moments.
The reduction was palpable when the ultimate whistle blew, with Australia having secured a 60-51 nine-goal win. That they had prevented catastrophe. It was apparent in each second of the match that this Diamonds group feared lacking that gold medal match in a means that no Australian outfit earlier than them ever had. That history-making second of a last with out the Diamonds has not eventuated in Birmingham, however for the primary time it appears inevitable that sooner or later very quickly it is going to occur.
The Diamonds now flip their focus to the gold medal match, having fought so arduous to be there. This time they’ve little greater than 24 hours to get well and return in opposition to an impassioned and extremely joyful Jamaican group who will safe their highest ever Commonwealth Video games inserting irrespective of the end result of the ultimate.
Usually when groups qualify for a last for the primary time, there are issues that they might have performed their last too quickly. That they threw every thing they’d into qualifying for the ultimate and don’t have anything left to win it with. That doesn’t seem like the case for Jamaica. They regathered themselves after the emotion-fuelled win over Australia to get rid of New Zealand ruthlessly and clinically. As an alternative it’s the Diamonds who will enter the match worn down from their final two encounters, with the stress build up and pushing in on them from all sides, arising in opposition to a group with virtually nothing to lose. It is vitally harmful territory.
For each groups the important thing can be holding their cool. For Jamaica this implies not getting blinded by the highlight of the largest stage they’ve been on, however merely enjoying the sport that has propelled them into this last match. For Australia it means stamping the useless physicality out of their sport – avoiding the cautions and dramatics that crept into the darker moments of their semi last.
No matter the results of the ultimate, Jamaica’s place in it’s indicative of a shift within the momentum of world netball. Slowly however absolutely, the enjoying discipline is being levelled and historical past is not a dependable indicator of future outcomes.