By Neil Leverett
- England host the 15th Netball World Cup on home soil in Liverpool, beginning on Friday July 12
- Roses approach tournament as second favourites to Australia, who they beat to win Commonwealth Gold last April
- Scotland and Northern Ireland also competing in ten-day event at M&S Bank Arena
LIVERPOOL, UK – On the eve of the 15th Netball World Cup in Liverpool, can England’s Roses climb to the top on home soil, having become Commonwealth champions in 2018?
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Liverpool host 15th World Cup
2019 has been signified by run of sporting World Cups. Whilst the greatest show in the women’s football has packed up departed French shores, the Cricket World Cup has now entered its final week of competition, with the final at Lords on Sunday.
With Rugby’s version set for Japan later in the year, next up comes the Netballing fraternity’s turn to grab the limelight, as Liverpool hosts the 15th edition of their World Cup, staged over 10 days between July 12th and 21st.
As 16 teams roll up to the M&S Bank Arena in heart of the city centre, hosts England pick up the torch for the third time, after Eastbourne hosted the inaugural competition in 1963, with Birmingham the last English city as the venue 24 years ago in 1995.
The cream of Netball will be on show, dominated by teams from the UK’s Vitality Superleague – including sides from Scotland and Wales – Australia’s Suncorp Super Netball, and from across the Tasman Sea with the ANZ Premiership in New Zealand.
As the number two ranked side in the world, England enter the tournament with a very realistic chance of winning their first world crown and ending the Antipodean stranglehold on the game, with either Australia or the Kiwis having won the tournament on the last nine occasions.
With hosts Trinidad and Tobago’s Calypso Girls the last side to win outside of the Australasian duo in 1979, the Roses will look to replicate the Caribbean nation’s efforts – all of fourty years ago – as Tracey Neville‘s charges look to build on an historic 2018.
Having stunned Australia in their own back yard on the Gold Coast during the Commonwealth Games last April to win Gold, England will now look to build on their comparatively meteoric rise to the top, and again take down the the favourites for the World Cup crown.
With half their squad playing in Australia, the Roses will not be strange bedfellows to many of their usual domestic cohorts, as skipper Serena Guthrie looks to lead her side to glory on home court.
Spearheaded by Aussie-born Chelsea Pitman and fellow goal attacks Joanne Harten and Helen Housby – the New South Wales Swift whose dramatic last-gasp goal snatched the Commonwealth title – vice captain and lead 161-cap centre Jade Clarke together with goalkeeper and goal defencewoman, Collingwood Magpie Geva Mentor, will look to bring their combined experience and big-game nouse to the party. The hosts face Uganda in their opening contest, before an all-British clash with Scotland and then Samoa, on consecutive days.
As documented, no nation outside of the Australia or New Zealand have wrestled the tag of world champions away from the two countries, with the Diamonds in particular looking to become the first side to win four successive World Cup crowns.
Led by goal shooter Caitlin Bassett, the Giants’ skipper – both literally and figuratively – provided the bulk of point hauls between herself and Caitlin Thwaites on the Gold Coast last year, and together with Liz Watson will look to drive their team on Merseyside.
Head Coach Lisa Alexander‘s side has more than a youthful spring to it, but following the retirement of Susan Petitt after the Commonwealths and with just two players in their thirties and nine players making their World Cup debuts, Australia’s essentially run-out pool stage may harm the world number ones later in the competition.
For New Zealand’s Silver Fearns, captain Laura Langman will carry Kiwi hopes, but the presence of the controversial Maria Folau will divide many as the wife of disgraced Australian rugby star Israel, whom she defended over homophobic comments earlier in the year.
Sunshine Girls gleaming; Scotland and Irish on show
The threat will not just come from the three highest ranked sides in the game. As three-time third placed finishers, Marvette Anderson‘s Jamaica will also be looking for a resurgence, having finished as bronze medalists in the last two Commonwealth tournaments – pushing England all the way in their semi-final against the eventual victors.
Where The Sunshine Girls may lack an attacking talisman however, Shamera Sterling has starred for the Adelaide Thunderbirds in Australia and her strong interception skills could become an asset as the tournament progresses.
England’s neighbours in both the Scots and Northern Irish will also be on show, and ranked eighth and ninth in the INF table respectively will look to use home support to their favour. Sirens’ attacker Bethan Goodwin could become one of the stars of the World Cup, with 19-year-old having dazzled in the Superleague this season. Dan Ryan‘s Northern Irish side meanwhile have a baptism of fire against the Aussies to open World Cup proceedings.
Eyes on M&S Bank Arena
As the M&S Bank Arena – formerly known as the Liverpool Echo Arena – prepares to host the World Cup, the former Capital of Culture will welcome the netball community to its’ Merseyside base for an intense and frenetic two-week period.
Designed by London architects Wilkinson Eyre, the arena houses a flexible space offering a variety of standard and bespoke layouts, ranging from just under 4,000 to over 11,000 capacity. The venue also offers a more intimate performance space – The Auditorium at M&S Bank Arena Liverpool – which has a capacity ranging from 850 to 1350.
Most recently staged as an indoor venue screening for Liverpool’s UEFA Champions League win over Tottenham Hotpsur back in June, the Liverpool Arena was also the host for Premier League Darts last year, when infamously Eric Bristow suffered a heart attack on stage, later passing away.
Having staged the Quad Series as a warm up event back in Janaury between Australia, England, New Zealand and South Africa, for the purposes of the tournament, the arena will have two separate courts for the duration of the competition.
Playing under similar timeframes as its’ sister basketball, 60-minute long games are divided into 15-minute quarters, at the end of which the team with the most goals scored wins. Playing under a new format this World Cup however, teams will compete in three stages; the Preliminaries Stage One (12-14 July), Preliminaries Stage Two (15-18 July) and the Play-offs and Placings matches (19-21 July).
There will be four groups (A, B, C and D) of four teams in the first stage, with the top eight teams pre-assigned to their groups and one team from the 9th-12th seeds and one from the 13th-16th seeds drawn randomly into each group. However no more than two teams from the one region can be drawn into the same group. The top three teams from each group will progress to the second preliminaries stage.
The top three teams from Groups A and B will form group F, and the top three teams from groups C and D will form group G. The bottom four finishers from groups A-D will compete against one another in group E. Where teams in groups F and G have already played each other in the Preliminaries Stage One (i.e. A1 has already played A2 and A3), these results will carry through to the Preliminaries Stage Two.
The teams finishing first and second in groups F and G will go through to the semi-finals, with the top placed team in each group facing the second placed team in the other group. The winners of each semi-final will compete for gold in the final, with the losers playing for bronze.
The teams finishing third and fourth in groups F and G will compete for final positions fifth to eighth – third in one group plays fourth in the other – with the winners playing off for fifth place and the losers for seventh.
The teams that finish fifth in groups F and G will play off for ninth and 10th places. The teams that finish last in groups F and G will play off for 11th and 12th places. The teams that finish first and second in group E will play-off for 13th and 14th place and the teams that finish third and fourth in group E will play-off for the 15th and 16th places.
The opening games of the 2019 Netball World Cup see Australia play Northern Ireland, whilst Zimbabwe face Sri Lanka simultaneously, at the M&S Bank Arena in Liverpool, on Friday 12 July at 9am UK time.
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