Jamaica’s furious comeback in the final quarter to defeat world No. 1 Australia has the Sunshine Girls believing netball gold is just around the corner at the Commonwealth Games.
Led by superstar goalscorer Jhaniele Fowler, Jamaica came on six goals down at the end of the break to stun the Diamonds 57-55 on Thursday in front of a raucous crowd at Birmingham’s NEC Arena.
Fowler — the four-time Super Netball MVP with West Coast Fever — was unstoppable, scoring 14 of his 47 goals, including five in a row, in the last quarter to turn a 48-45 deficit into a 49-48 lead.
“It’s surreal, we haven’t beat Australia at the Commonwealth Games and to come here and do it with an incredible team, just go out there and prove everyone wrong was really good,” said Fowler.
“Definitely it means more (beating Australia). Why are we going down from here? From here it only goes up.
“Australia are number 1 and if we beat number 1 it means we can achieve anything.
“We want to go home with either a gold or a silver medal, but we’re going for gold, that’s always been our focus.”
Jamaica celebrated the win with a team dance on the pitch after the game. Fowler said, “It’s what makes us alive and happy, so we do it.”
This one will tie for the Diamonds, who had not lost a quarter of all games through Thursday’s last period.
After surviving the early Jamaican attack, they had seemingly held their own in the third quarter with brilliant midfield play.
Australia’s two-pronged attack from Gretel Bueta (36/39) and Steph Wood (19/22) did everything to bring Australia home, but the loss handed first place in Pool A to Jamaica.
The Diamonds will now meet the winner of the previous group stage match between England and New Zealand on Thursday night in Saturday’s semifinals to qualify for the gold medal game.
“We probably let ourselves down on some execution stuff last quarter,” center Kate Moloney said.
“Six goals up by three-quarters time – credit to Jamaica but we probably should have been able to hit the goal.
“When they have guns like they do… you never really have them.”
Should the Diamonds face the Sunshine Girls again in the finals, they will need to find an answer to Fowler’s brutal combination of size, strength and skill.
As she has done in the Australian league for years, Fowler did what she wanted on the court and the Diamonds admitted there was little they could do to stop her once the ball got anywhere near the shooting circle.
“She’s such a target in there, we really have to protect Courto and Sarah (Courtney Bruce and Sarah Klau) at that goalie position,” Moloney said.
“Once it gets to the edge of the circle, there’s not much they can do. It’s up to us to slow that ball down.”
Center Paige Hadley was again absent for the Diamonds with a calf injury and will remain monitored ahead of Saturday’s semifinals.