Our wāhine clinch three emotional medals – in cricket, netball and squash – on a record-breaking day for NZ; the lunch wrap fills you in on the penultimate day in Birmingham.
Performances of the day
Joelle King has wiped out the heartache of her singles campaign by winning the first mixed doubles gold medal of her career – but her celebrations were kept to a minimum.
King will definitely collect a second medal tonight – gold or silver – with her female doubles partner, Amanda Landers-Murphy. So she hasn’t been able to share a beer yet with mixed doubles partner Paul Coll, a double gold medallist at these Games.
The White Ferns and the Silver Ferns could party all night, though, after both teams played exceptional final games to win bronze in the T20 cricket and netball play-offs. And in huge turnarounds, both stunned the home nation and denied them medals.
The old King-Coll pairing were never really troubled at this tournament, and maintained that in the final beating England’s Alison Waters and Adrian Waller, 11-3, 11-6 – a record 19th gold medal for the New Zealand Team in Birmingham. There was a dash of redemption in their victory after the Kiwis narrowly missed the final in 2018 and had to be content with bronze.
King had been hurting after missing a singles medal as the defending champion from the Gold Coast.
“After a devastating week for me, to come back and have the courage to fight for medals – I’m proud of that,” the 33-year-old said. “Sometimes it’s hard when you’re down in the dumps to find your feet again.
“We lift each other and have great relationships off the court. Paul has been leading by example and has lifted us up.”
With that boost in confidence, King and Landers-Murphy look to defend their Gold Coast gold tonight against another English pair, Waters again and Sarah-Jane Perry.
The White Ferns
The White Ferns turned their fortunes around with a dominant win over England in the bronze medal match – revealing a very bright future.
After a disappointing home World Cup, the White Ferns rang in the changes, including new head coach Ben Sawyer. A heavy defeat to England in Games pool play and a narrow loss to Australia in the semifinals had a few counting the Ferns out.
Captain Sophie Devine told Sky Sport while the short turnaround after the semi wasn’t ideal (just over 12 hours after leaving the field), the Ferns were able to change focus quickly.
“We needed to have that space to grieve almost and to get over it and come out today,” she said. “Ben was awesome this morning, saying ‘What’s been has gone and we have to focus on today, we’ve got such an awesome opportunity to hopefully get the bronze medal’ – and here we are a couple of hours later.”
After losing the toss, the White Ferns never looked like losing anything else, taking two early wickets in the field. England stumbled to a total of 110, with five Kiwi bowlers sharing nine wickets between them, Hayley Jensen with figures of 3/24 and Devine keeping a phenomenal economy rate of just 3.66 across her three overs (and two wickets).
Devine’s unbeaten 51 soared the Ferns to victory in the 12th over, with 49 balls to spare. Typically quick to keep her emotions at bay, Devine couldn’t hold back the tears.
“I know we haven’t always been the best but we just give it bloody everything and we want to do the country proud.”
With three players making their debut at the Games, 32-year-old Devine can’t wait to see where Sawyer leads this exciting young team (their next pinnacle event is the T20 World Cup in February).
Favourites Australia held off a spirited India side for gold, needing the final over to bowl India out for 152, nine runs short.
The Silver Ferns
“It’s massive,” Dame Noeline Taurua said after the Silver Ferns flipped a 10-goal defeat to England a couple of days ago to a decisive 55-48 victory over the Roses, to clinch bronze early this morning.
No one knew how the young-ish Silver Ferns would fare at these Games, and a hefty 16-goal loss to Jamaica in the semis could have easily crushed their spirits. Far from it.
Having worked on their mindset and killer instinct overnight, New Zealand came out firing from the first. Taurua finally found her top seven – bringing in tall bookends shooter Grace Nweke and keeper Kelly Jury – and stuck with them the entire game. Smart move.
Nweke, in her 11th test, had it all over England keeper Geva Mentor, playing her 160th. She’d shoot 44 from 48 – 92 percent – in her most confident performance yet in the black dress. Te Paea Selby-Rickit, great at lifting to the occasion, played a stellar supporter’s role in the shooting circle.
Jury’s long reach and nose for the ball made life increasingly difficult for the English, gold medallists four years ago. The Ferns grew a one-goal lead at the first quarter break to 29-23 at halftime, and never lost their composure or discipline through the 60 minutes.
As the Silver Ferns performed their haka for the crowd, Taurua said it was a huge achievement for her side.
“There are four massive teams in netball at the moment, and we can say we got number three this time around, so I think that’s definitely an achievement with a group that hasn’t been together very long,” she said.
Australia won their first major netball title in eight years, downing first-time finalists Jamaica, 55-51, despite the 100 percent efforts of former Steel shooter Jhaniele Fowler.
Quote of the day
“The last couple of months have been really tough, but to see the support we had from players, the wider cricket community, just means a lot to us and we’re just really proud Kiwis. We want to go out and we want to win games of cricket and we want to put our best foot forward, so to do that with a bunch of mates is pretty special.” – White Ferns captain Sophie Devine leading her team to bronze.
The good news
New Zealand secured two more medals on Saturday – silver for Julia Ratcliffe in the hammer and bronze for Selina Goddard and Katelyn Inch in the women’s bowls pairs.
It was a third Games medal for Ratcliffe, the defending Commonwealth champ. While her best throw of 69.63m was impressive, Canadian Camryn Rogers had gold in the bag with 74.08m. Fellow Kiwi Nicole Bradley was ninth with 63.10m.
And on the bowls green, Inch and Goddard beat Malaysia, 20-15, in the bronze play-off – finishing a strong campaign from the women’s bowlers who’ll come home with three medals.
Rhythmic gymnast Havana Hopman had an impressive final appearance at these Games, her debut, finishing fourth in the clubs final.
The last Kiwi athlete to compete in Alexander Stadium, Tori Peeters was happy finishing fifth in the javelin. Her opening throw of 57.86m was her best; Australians finishing one-two, with world champ Kelsey-Lee Barber winning with 64.43m.
The not-so-good news
The Black Sticks ran out of puff – despondent after losing the bronze medal play-off to India in another tense penalty shoot-out.
The New Zealanders were only in that position (for the second time in as many games) after captain Olivia Merry scored a penalty stroke with 18 seconds left in the match to draw equal on the scoreboard 1-1 (her earlier goal was disallowed).
India had the majority of scoring chances in the 60 minutes of field play, but only capitalised on a melee in the goalmouth just before halftime. But the young New Zealand team looked fatigued after two months away from home and, despite the valiant efforts of keeper Grace O’Hanlon, India out-played the Black Sticks 2-1 in the shoot-out.
The Kiwi beach volleyball pairing of Alice Zeimann and Shaunna Polley let a bronze medal slip through their hands like sand this morning.
After dominating the first set against Vanuatu, 21-10, the Kiwis had match point in the much-closer second set, but Vanuatu fought back, winning 22-20, to force the game into a deciding third point. From there, it was Vanuatu’s game taking the last 15-10.
“It sucks not to take that bronze,” Zeimann said. “But we are proud of how we battled through the tournament.”
Alice Zeimann and Shaunna Polley console each other after losing the beach volleyball bronze play-off.
Kiwi cyclists couldn’t match the firepower of Australia in the road race despite having riders in the lead group at the end of 112km. Georgia Williams, bronze medallist in the time trial, was the best of the Kiwis in 13th, with Australia claiming gold and bronze. But in better news, Aaron Gate won the men’s race, making him the first Kiwi to ever win four gold medals at one Commonwealth Games (after his three victories on the track last week).
Maggie Squire had the misfortune of being the only diver in the field of 13 in the preliminary 3m springboard to not make the final, finishing well behind the pack. The youngest member of the NZ team, she and Frazer Tavener will compete in the mixed synchro competition tomorrow, the event making its Commonwealth Games debut.
After years of quarantine, isolation and bubbles ruling the sporting world, Birmingham has taken a much more relaxed approach to athletes with Covid. Australian cricketing all-rounder Tahlia McGrath tested positive the morning of their gold medal match against India, yet was still cleared to play. Spending time out in the middle with both bat and ball, McGrath couldn’t sit with her teammates during the game, but was side-by-side with them (mask on) at the medal ceremony.
After making a Commonwealth Games final for the first time, finishing with a silver medal, Netball Jamaica have received a $14 million sponsorship deal – from Wray & Nephew White Overproof Rum. Hopefully the partnership has come in time for the Sunshine Girls’ celebrations.
Who’s up next
MONDAY 8 AUGUST
DIVING: Maggie Squire & Frazer Tavener, mixed synchro final, 9.05pm
SQUASH: Joelle King & Amanda Landers-Murphy, women’s doubles final, 11pm