Never mind the silver, Australia’s women aim for golden day at Games
Only one athlete representing Australia’s female cricket, netball and hockey teams – who are featuring in gold medal matches within hours of each other at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games – was alive in 1988 when Australia’s Duncan Armstrong won Olympic gold in the 200-metre freestyle event in Seoul.
Without giving that athlete up – hint, they’re a cricketer – there is no doubt some individuals in those sides would remember the iconic moment that followed the upset victory when Armstrong’s overly emotional coach, Laurie Lawrence, summed up his feelings in one famous line.
Athletes from these three teams could do worse than go for a digital walk down memory lane before they get out of bed on Sunday morning to get some true blue motivation for the penultimate day of Commonwealth Games competition.
“What do you think we came here for? Silver?” Lawrence told TV reporter Steve Quartermain at the time. “Stuff the silver, we came for the gold.”
Some good old-fashioned Australian spirit is in the air in Birmingham as the country’s female sporting stars prepare for a “Super Sunday” of epic proportions, when three very winnable team gold medals are there for the taking thanks to impressive wins on Saturday from the netball and cricket teams.
The best part about it? They’re back, to back, to back.
The hockey, netball and cricket sides all have a chance to write their names into Games folklore when they battle it out against England (hockey), Jamaica (netball) and India (cricket) on Sunday, UK time, which will be into the early hours of Monday morning in Australia.
Australia’s netball, cricket and hockey teams will battle it out for a gold medal on Sunday in Birmingham.Credit:Getty
The Hockeyroos (midnight AEST) are looking to improve on their silver medal from 2018, Australia’s cricketers (2am AEST) have the chance to win the first women’s Commonwealth Games gold medal, while the Diamonds (5.30am AEST) are out for revenge against Jamaica after a shock pool loss earlier this week.
Australia’s female athletes have had clear bragging rights over their male counterparts at these Games.
They have won nearly 70 per cent of Australia’s gold medals in events that were not mixed gender.
“We haven’t come here to settle for second,” said Australian netball coach Stacey Marinkovich, echoing Lawrence’s sentiment from more than three decades ago.
Marinkovich’s Australian side reversed the pain of a gold medal match that went wrong four years ago to defeat England 60-51 on Saturday in front of the most vocal home crowd imaginable at the National Exhibition Centre.
“The final is going to be a spectacle,” Marinkovich said. “We definitely want everyone’s support back home.”
Greta Bueta and Steph Wood share a hug after their win over England.Credit:Getty
Australia hauled themselves up off the canvas after being humiliated by Jamaica this week in a two-goal loss – it was the Caribbean nation’s first victory over the Diamonds at the Commonwealth Games – to easily account for England, whose defence just wasn’t as sharp as their opponents.
Australia led 15-12 at the first quarter and never looked back, with Gretel Bueta shooting the lights out at almost 98 per cent accuracy (43 from 44 attempts) to banish the demons of a one-goal loss to England at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
“You wouldn’t want to walk away from the tournament and go ‘what if,’” Marinkovich said. “To play in front of that crowd with that atmosphere and be able to execute our game plan, it puts us in a good position.”
Australia has two teams in the only events at these Commonwealth Games where no male medals are up for grabs – netball and cricket – after Meg Lanning’s side put on a clinic against New Zealand in their semi-final at Edgbaston.
New Zealand’s Suzie Bates is bowled by Australian quick Megan Schutt.Credit:AP
After New Zealand nudged their way to 7-144 after 20 overs, Australia wobbled at 2-28 before Beth Mooney (36 runs from 29 balls), Tahlia McGrath (34 from 23) steadied the ship.
There was a bit of heart-in-mouth stuff for Australian fans as the sky went pink but the team’s class and depth prevailed as they reached their target with three balls remaining and five wickets in the sheds.
The final is not only a rematch of the pool game last week, which Australia won, but the 2020 Twenty20 decider at a packed MCG that Australia was also victorious in.
The first match on Sunday is the Hockeyroos’ decider against England. They wrapped up a spot in the gold medal match in controversial circumstances on Friday following a re-spotted penalty.
“The most exciting part of the Comm Games for us is feeling a part of those games,” said Australian cricketer Beth Mooney. “A few of us were at the hockey last night and we watched their penalty shootout. We were pumped to see them get over the line.
“It’s an amazing time to be a female athlete in Australia and it’s an amazing time to feel part of something bigger than our cricket team. The amount of girls and mums in the crowd tonight is a sign that we’re doing something right.”
Megan Schutt, who took three wickets on Saturday, added: “It’s thrilling. I think seeing other Australians lift gold medals pushed us to do the same thing. It lifts you as a person. Hopefully we can get together and watch those games.”
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