16 Aug 2015

Ferns v Diamonds: here we go again

11:56 am on 16 August 2015

OPINION: Many questioned whether the Silver Ferns would even make this year's World Cup final. They did, and they've even got a chance of winning it.

Australian netball caption Laura Geitz (left) and New Zealand caption Casey Kopua.

Duelling captains: Australia's Laura Geitz and the Silver Ferns' Casey Kopua. Photo: PHOTOSPORT / RNZ

The Australian Diamonds are still the favourites; the win over them last Sunday did not, as coach Wai Taumaunu rightly points out, represent a trend.

In fact, the Silver Ferns may have done the Diamonds a favour by forcing a greater sense of urgency in their side.

The Diamonds didn't play to their full potential last week.

They are a quality side and they know how to play on the big stage. They have a deep well of experience, probably the best resources in the world at their disposal and will have a home crowd behind them.

Perhaps the best demonstration of how tough they are was the ANZ Championship final between the Queensland Firebirds and New South Wales Swifts in June.

The sides went hammer and tong at each other until the bitter end when the Firebirds won by a single goal in the final seconds after trailing for most of the match.

Many of the players involved in that epic final are Diamonds teammates and the side has always been extremely resilient.

This will be the sixth time New Zealand and Australia meet in a World Cup gold medal match since the finals format was introduced in 1991, the last time Sydney hosted the tournament.

It's somewhat ironic that the current coach of the Ferns, Wai Taumaunu, captained the Silver Ferns in that 1991 tournament.

It was a final New Zealand lost by one goal to their nemesis and, incredibly, it wouldn't be the first time the Ferns would come so close.

In 1999 New Zealand lost by one goal to the Diamonds after heading into the final quarter with a six goal buffer.

The Ferns finally got one back when they took out the 2003 final by two goals.

In 2007 Australia beat New Zealand in the final by four goals, and in the cruelest loss of all, they in extra time by one goal at the last world cup in Singapore.

So you can understand what drives the Silver Ferns - redemption.

Silver Fern Kayla Cullen and Tamsin Greenway compete for the ball during the Netball World Cup semi final match between the Silver Ferns and England.

Kayla Cullen and Tamsin Greenway compete for the ball during the World Cup semi final between the Silver Ferns and England. Photo: PhotoSport

So why could the Ferns win?

The Ferns have a shot at winning because they are playing fearless netball.

When Taumaunu was asked at a gathering during the week how she could help take pressure off the players so they could just focus on playing she replied.

"When we met I said 'I picked you, you're my team, if this doesn't work, that's my problem, you have nothing to fear'."

That's a pretty liberating message.

Taumaunu has also devised a plan to thwart the Australians - they've come this far playing an expansive, wide open game, and Taumaunu doesn't plan on changing that.

They also have a bit of x-factor about them.

Kayla Cullen, for one, has an innate ability to come flying through for intercepts, and Bailey Mes isn't quite like any other goal shooter at the tournament.

The Diamonds are not used to our fresh attacking style and no matter how much they analyse videos and talk about game plans, they haven't been able to get a feel for it on court.

The fact Mes is so new in the Ferns set-up is to our advantage.

The Silver Ferns are playing an exciting brand of netball and are playing with flair.

The upshot of it all, though, is we're probably in for another heart-stopper.

Australian coach Lisa Alexander summed it up most simply after the Diamonds press conference last night as journalists started packing up their kit.

"It's going to be a big day tomorrow everybody."

The final starts at 5.20pm and there'll be live coverage on radionz.co.nz.

Bailey Mes of New Zealand (left) competes for the ball with Geva Mentor of England during the 1st semi-final in the Netball World Cup at Allphones Arena in Sydney.

Bailey Mes of New Zealand (left) competes for the ball with Geva Mentor of England during world cup semi-final. Photo: AAP

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