For more than a decade, there have been just two contenders for world netball supremacy, and Australia and New Zealand will once again face off in the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi.
Every gold medal match since the sport first entered the Games in 1998, along with every world championship final in that time, has featured those two teams, intensifying the rivalry ahead of Thursday’s decider.
“They’re No.1 in the world at the moment and the more we get to play them, the more we get the chance to get one over on them,” New Zealand coach Ruth Aitken said.
Australian coach Norma Plummer is desperate to down the Silver Ferns, having been in charge in 2006 when the Diamonds missed gold for the first time.
“I took over coaching not long before we lost that last one, so it would be nice and sweet to get this one back,” Plummer said.
“We’ve been on track, we’ve had more wins on New Zealand than they’ve had on us this year.”
Australia downed New Zealand 2-1 in a series spread over the two countries in July and August, but that will count for little if they lose in Delhi.
“For both teams, it’s the pinnacle, it’s what we train for, work so hard for, so bring it on,” Aitken said, echoed by Plummer.
“You always want to be in the gold medal match, that’s what you come and train for and that’s what the whole idea of turning up here for us is,” the Australian coach said.
New Zealand arguably enter the decider in better form, having notched a commanding 59-43 semi-final win over Jamaica, while Australia trailed England until the third term, before lifting to win 51-45.
But New Zealand’s star shooter Irene Van Dyk said regardless of lead-in form, Australia-New Zealand clashes rarely delivered anything but classics.
“It’s such humdingers, it’s always tight games, you never know who’s going to win … we don’t even know what’s going to happen,” the 190cm, 38-year-old former South African said.
For 32-year-old Australian captain Sharelle McMahon, seeking to become the sport’s first three-time Games gold medallist, history was secondary.
“For me, it’s more that I want to be the reigning gold medallist, not the reigning silver medallist,” McMahon said.
“We can’t change the result in Melbourne, it’s not going to avenge that, we’re not going to get revenge.
“This is a new era for us and this group is one that has high expectations for each other and we just want to do that for each other.”
NEW DELHI – 13/10/2010 04:09:54 PM [AAP]