Netball gets new look: Tasman rivals meet in semifinals

April 13, 2018

New Zealand's Maria Folau poses for a photo following her netball team's victory over Wales at the Convention and Exhibition Centre during the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, Australia, Friday, April 6, 2018. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

GOLD COAST, Australia (AP) — Memo from Vicki Wilson to New Zealand netball: you need to find your identity and you need to find it quickly.

The Aussie netball great has tipped the host team to play Jamaica in Sunday’s gold medal match at the Commonwealth Games, which would be a break with tradition.

But not before New Zealand get one more crack at their greatest netball rivals — Australia’s Diamonds — in the semifinals.

Trans-Tasman rivalry is so intense the only thing certain this Saturday is tears.

That and the Commonwealth Games retirement of New Zealand’s goal shooter Maria Folau.

A defeat for the Silver Ferns on Saturday will spark recriminations in netball.

For the entire stretch of the sport’s Commonwealth Games history — and this is a popular game across the Commonwealth — these two countries have always played for the gold medal.

Until now.

“What is exciting ... there’s not going to be same people playing ... the same countries and that’s exciting,” said Wilson, who is working with the Fiji team at the games. “New Zealand don’t have cohesiveness in their forward line, there’s a stutter there. I also think New Zealand need work out what style they want to play.

“They’ve gone man-on-man but their greatest strength has always been playing zone ... they need to work out their true identity.”

But Wilson said defending champion Australia’s combination of speed and skill would see them win gold with Jamaica winning silver.

New Zealand qualified for the semifinals on goal percentage despite losses to England and Malawi, with their progress ultimately relying on Uganda beating Scotland.

Jamaica will be coming off a loss to Australia when it takes on England in the other semifinal.

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