Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald's chief sports reporter

Netball: Ferns do their bit for Fast5

Laura Langman of New Zealand takes a pass. Photo / Getty Images.
Laura Langman of New Zealand takes a pass. Photo / Getty Images.

A victory for the Fast Ferns and a pass mark for the Fast 5 concept.

New Zealand's star-studded line-up ousted England 23-21 in last night's Fast5 grand final, in a battle of attrition that was contrary to what the shortened version of the game is all about, capping off a weekend of otherwise spectacular action.

The question still remains whether it is worthwhile the INF redirecting their limited resources into a spin-off version when there is still much that needs to be done to grow the original game, but as a concept, Fast5 is an improvement from its previous incarnation, FastNet.

After disappointing crowds over the first two days of the tournament, Vector Arena was at near-capacity for finals day with 5,500 fans packing into the venue. With their sparkly wigs, pink feather boas and questionable dance moves, the crowd helped create a festival atmosphere Netball New Zealand were hoping for.

The Fast Ferns did their part to delight the fans - both with their play out on court, and their pre-match antics.

Introduced on court wearing bright pink bandannas, the Ferns relished the chance to play the entertainers, performing the Gangnam Style dance before the national anthems.
There was a chance it could backfire badly and they'd end up looking like geese if they didn't put on just as stronger show against England out on court.

One of New Zealand netball's most well-known names of yesteryear, Dame Lois Muir, calls the new series "an exciting work in progress".

But wing attacks and wing defences of the world needn't fear for their future. Muir believes much like rugby sevens, Fast5 won't take over from the traditional form of the game, and the event will attract a different style of athlete.

Many have highlighted the success of the African nations in the tournament as having positive spin-offs for the global game, but it remains to be seen whether the profile of the likes of the Malawi Queens and South African netballers will be boosted after their impressive results this weekend.

One of the best features of Fast5, for Kiwi fans anyway, is that Australia do not reign supreme on the purple court.

The Fast5 Diamonds (or should that be rough?) finished dead last in the tournament, having struggled to adapt to the concept. Winless after the round robin section, Australia were edged out by an energetic Malawi side in yesterday's 5th/6th playoff.

Despite their poor showing over the weekend, Australian coach Lisa Alexander leapt to the defence of her young side.

"I think it needs to be very clear to the netball public that we were taking into this competition a development team and yes we don't like losing, but we also have to respect the other teams, Malawi did a great job," said Alexander.

But given all but one of the Australian team have solid ANZ Championship experience, it was hardly a team of rookies that took the court for the Diamonds, and they should have been much more competitive than they were.

South Africa showed the benefit of their experience in the Quad Series, finishing with bronze after pulling off a shock 38-34 win over Jamaica in the play-off for third and fourth.

The Ferns proved they mastered the strategy of Fast5 earlier in the day with a commanding 52-18 win over Jamaica in their semifinal match-up. The Ferns poured on the points in their powerplay quarter, before bringing on their defensive guns to restrict the Sunshine Girls to just two for their double-scoring quarters.

Fast5 World Series
Final standings
1 New Zealand
2 England
3 South Africa
4 Jamaica
5 Malawi
6 Australia

- NZ Herald

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