New Zealand surprised the netball world with their World Cup semifinal victory against England — and battle Australia early tomorrow in Liverpool for the ultimate prize. Here are five key factors that shaped the team's campaign.
1. Revenge against Malawi
Having suffered a shocking loss to Malawi at last year's Commonwealth Games, their first ever to the African nation, the Ferns had a point to prove in their opening World Cup clash.
Easily prevailing 64-45 not only gave the Ferns a boost as they settled into the competition but gave a glimpse into the improvements they'd made.
2. Katrina Rore's comeback from injury
When Rore was ruled out of the final warm-up series with a calf strain, questions were asked about whether the former captain would be fit in time to play in the World Cup.
Having just earned a recall to the national side after a standout season with the Central Pulse, Rore was devastated — and so was coach Noeline Taurua, who had hinged part of her World Cup plan around the world-class defender.
Making a full recovery just in time, Rore's comeback and move to wing defence has been a key to the Ferns reaching the final.
3. Playing catch-up against Australia
The Silver Ferns levelling the scores in the final quarter against Australia after trailing by as many as nine goals was a huge moment for the side.
The Ferns ultimately lost the second-round pool match by one goal but proved they could escape sticky situations and foot it with the Diamonds when they trusted their processes and played to their strengths.
4. Shooters stepping up
It's hard to believe that a few months ago, Taurua was scrambling to select shooting combinations who could consistently put the ball through the hoop.
Turns out all she needed was to slap a GS on Maria Folau's dress and trust in the experience of Ameliaranne Ekenasio, Bailey Mes and Te Paea Selby-Rickit.
The Ferns attacking unit may have copped plenty of criticism in the past but they've been hugely influential to sealing the side's spot in the grand final.
5. Jane Watson's back-to-back-to-back intercepts
Watson's three turnovers in the opening minutes against England set up New Zealand's semifinal win.
The Ferns needed to start strongly against an England side that had beaten them four times in a row and quieten the thousands of vocal Roses fans.
And although the lead swung back and forth through the match, without those early intercepts that allowed New Zealand to open with five unanswered goals, events could have unfolded very differently.