The 2019 Vitality Netball World Cup had the potential to be the most enthralling and competitive ever and over the course of its 10 days in Liverpool, it more than lived up to that billing.
On court, teams emerged as new forces in the game, new favourites were discovered, disappointment was felt and triumphs were celebrated too.
After the two closest semi-finals in tournament history, the gold medal match was the spectacle and contest that the world was hoping for and England secured bronze to send Tracey Neville off (for now) with a medal.
As the sport emerges from a World Cup like no other, our Sky Sports experts share their key talking points.
The Silver Ferns and Noeline Taurua
We could not start anywhere else other than with the world champions, New Zealand. The Silver Ferns produced an exceptional campaign and one that was spearheaded by their experienced players and the outstanding Noeline Taurua.
Taurua only took charge in August last year and has transformed them from a side missing their confidence, system and edge into world beaters. Tamsin Greenway cannot speak highly enough of her.
“She has been exceptional,” Greenway said. “I think what you have to look at as well, not only has she come in and changed their culture and changed their style, she’s also had so much pressure on her shoulders. She came in 10 months ago.
“There was a massive argument that she should have got the job four years before. She didn’t, she went away and won two titles in the Suncorp Super Netball which is unheard of. It’s been absolutely incredible in what she’s done there and she’s come back and said, ‘Right I’m going to do it my way,’
“She’s brought back key players like Laura Langman and Casey Kopua but it’s not only that. She’s brought on people as well.
“The way that Ameliaranne Ekenasio performed in that semi-final, the way that she’s brought on some of the youngsters like Karin Burger, when we watched her in that Quad Series back in January she got sent off on her debut. She was warned, cautioned and sent off the court for two minutes and yet look at the difference in her now.
“Taurua has got something that is very special that you can’t teach people. I said I was scared of her before the tournament because tactically the woman is a genius.”
Mikki Austin, Surrey Storm’s director of netball, believes the emergence of so many dynamic and impressive players was a hallmark of this competition.
“I think for me, the insurgence of the unsung heroes. I think off the back of this tournament in particular, across leagues throughout the world and especially in the UK’s Vitality Netball Superleague, you will see the emergence of these current unknown names coming to the forefront,” Austin said.
“This tournament format, in particular in the way that it’s been extended, has created an opportunity for more than just the top four teams to play consistently. Everyone got at least six days or seven days of competition and that’s really paid dividends.
“It’s given these athletes that are currently unknown an opportunity to flourish. That’s brilliant to see because some of these nations don’t get an opportunity and it could really be life-changing for some of these athletes.”
What a truly incredible @NetballWorldCup.
From the whole @SkyNetball team, thank you so much.
See you for more netball very soon. #RiseWithUs #NWC2019 pic.twitter.com/uGIcFV5vuB
From start to finish the 2019 Vitality Netball World Cup was a competition like no other, from the action on the court to the unprecedented coverage of the sport’s pinnacle competition. The 10 days of the tournament has driven netball to new heights.
Netball has featured in the national newspapers, has been the topic of conversations in offices, at bus stops and in pubs. The sport has captured the nation and the wave of momentum behind it looks set to continue.
“There is no other netball competition in the world that goes off like a Netball World Cup,” said double World Cup winner Sharni Layton.
The players on court have felt it too as England’s captain Serena Guthrie added when reflecting on securing a bronze medal and their journey under Neville.
Guthrie said: “We can be very proud. It’s amazing to have been a part of what has been netball growing and netball exploding in this country. To be an athlete that’s been at the heart of that, has been truly amazing and I feel quite privileged to have been a part of that.”
Jamaica’s challenging tournament
When it came to the pre-tournament build up, the Sunshine Girls were the talk of the town.
Marvette Anderson’s 12-player squad made every nation sit up and take notice but when it came down to the start of the tournament, the heights expected were not reached. Dan Ryan reflected on their tournament.
“I think that Jamaica have been obviously a bit of a head-scratcher for a lot of people because they boast some of the most dangerous players in the game,” said Ryan, the head coach of Northern Ireland.
Passion and Pride!!! We will finish off with dignity?? pic.twitter.com/wMm2gGHyct
“They came with lofty expectations as perhaps this was going to be their time to really break through, particularly with the emergence of Shamera Sterling over the past year and a bit. So, they’ll look at this one as the one that got away but certainly they didn’t appear to have had the same type of preparation as the other countries.
“Jamaica just looked off the pace [to contend for gold] and missed a few key positional players that really hurt them.
“Whereas all of these top teams have a really well-defined starting seven with some real punch off the bench and I just thought that Jamaica looked a little bit light this competition, perhaps more so in form as opposed to personnel.”
One of the key talking points of the opening week was the tournament-ending injury that Layla Guscoth picked up.
The defender left the court during England’s 70-34 victory over Scotland and it was confirmed after a ruptured ACL would see her ruled out of the rest of the competition.
The current tournament regulations state a new player cannot be introduced and that’s something Dan Ryan also thinks must be addressed and amended going forwards.
“It’s so bizarre that we can’t replace a player throughout a tournament. The strain and pressure that puts on the other athletes are a safety concern really,” Ryan said.
“Again, it comes down to funding for nations to be able to have reserve athletes but the fact that there’s a rule that you can’t bring in someone is ridiculous at this level. The welfare of the player and the team should really be the priority.”
It’s time to adapt and change
Tamsin Greenway was with us for every moment of the tournament and hailed the 10 days of competition. Alongside praising the competition reaching new heights, she also believes that now is the time for it to continue to evolve.
“It’s got to adapt, we’ve got to change. We’ve always got away with what we’ve got away with. The game has changed now,” said Greenway at the M&S Bank Arena.
10 days and it’s finally over. What an amazing tournament. Loved almost every minute. The semis and finals were some of the best netball I’ve ever seen. Fell in love with Zimbabwe and their fans and feel so lucky to have been part of it. #NWC2019 @SkyNetball pic.twitter.com/urtmphHeLS
“I think from it being a week-long/10-day competition, we’ve moved from an amateur to a professional era for some teams. So actually it’s completely different, there’s no way that Aussies and Kiwis could have backed up another game like that for five days. It wouldn’t have happened.
“If we want the growth of the game and we’re going to get closer games then we have to look at it.
“All of it comes down to funding, some teams have struggled to get here even for 10 days so if you put it over two or three weeks or even a month. We’ve got to look at those things and that’s why it’s a world netball issue.”
England’s Vitality Roses
Let’s finish with Neville’s England Vitality Roses and the tournament they enjoyed in front of their home fans in Liverpool.
After a semi-final loss saw their ambitions of a place in the gold medal match erased, the squad had to ensure a home campaign would still finish with a medal.
The danger was the emotions of missing out on the final would derail them.
History shows, in countless World Cup tournaments across different sports, that such a drop off is possible, so the mental resilience and character they showed to attack the bronze medal match was something special and something that Pamela Cookey applauded.
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