Netball: Ferns outplayed by more clinical opponents (+photos)

By Dylan Cleaver

Silver Ferns 38 Australia 42

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If you were the type to look for portents, then Irene van Dyk crashing to the floor in the first few seconds of this final probably told you this wasn't going to be New Zealand's night.

In the real world, though, the only sign you needed was this: Australia were clinical, superior, world champions. Pick your adjective.

New Zealand were gritty and, at the defensive end of the court at least, momentarily outstanding. But letters "C" forward through "GA" they were outplayed and out-thought by their opponents, rendering the unique talents of their "GS" mostly redundant.

Where Australia's superiority was most marked was in feeding the circle.

The von Bertouch sisters, Natalie and Laura, had it all over their New Zealand counterparts, Laura Langman and Adine Wilson.

With Sharelle McMahon and Susan Pratley creating great space with constant darting movement, shooter Catherine Cox, who does not always have the most reliable radar, was given an armchair ride.

Even still Casey Williams and Sheryl Scanlan were playing out of their skins, fishing out the odd intercept and refusing to let Australia's creativity overwhelm them.

Normally, Australia's shooting percentage - which dipped into the low 70s at times - would not be enough to win, but at the other end, New Zealand had a devil of a job getting the ball into the shooters' hands.

In many respects Langman and Wilson should have had an easier task in the final than they did against Jamaica in the semifinal, with van Dyk's height advantage over the tenacious Liz Ellis.

But Jodi Te Huna's reluctance to shoot and the Ferns' reticence to let the ball go meant the error count mounted.

At quarter time Australia had turned a 4-7 deficit into a 13-10 lead and, more ominously, they looked slicker.

The second quarter belonged to Australia as van Dyk's impatience began to show. She was leaving her low-post position early in an effort to get her hands on the ball, but she is no real threat to Australia on the fringes.

Australia increased their lead to 27-20 and it seemed only divine intervention could save the Ferns.

At halftime, Norma Plummer answered the prayers of many New Zealanders by replacing McMahon, who admittedly is not as accurate under the hoop as her replacement Susan Pratley.

However the sting went out of the Australians.

So New Zealand's reign as the undisputed queens of world netball has been brief, but glorious. The 49-47 victory over the old enemy at Kingston, Jamaica, was the culmination of a slow-burning campaign that saw them catch up and overtake an ageing Australian outfit.

They retained that dominance through to the 2006 Commonwealth Games final at Melbourne. The margin that day was five goals but it seemed even greater. New Zealand's more robust and professional domestic competition was expected to lay the groundwork for an even longer period of dominance but it never occurred.

The Silver Ferns won their next outing at Brisbane by 12 goals but then Aitken tinkered with her team for the second test in Sydney and witnessed an astonishing 22-goal turnaround.

Australia, by and large, have held the whip hand since.

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