Jhaniele Fowler led the way as Jamaica defeated Australia in a stunning 57-55 upset, beating netball’s No 1-ranked side to take top spot in their Commonwealth Games pool.
Down by six goals heading into the last quarter, the Sunshine Girls came storming back before a raucous crowd at Arena Birmingham. Fowler, a four-time Super Netball MVP with West Coast Fever in Australia, proved unstoppable, scoring 47 goals from 50 attempts.
Australia’s two-pronged attack of Gretel Bueta (36 from 39) and Steph Wood (19 from 22) did all they could get Australia home, but costly turnovers ultimately led the Diamonds to an unexpected defeat.
The pre-tournament favorites to win the gold medal will now face the winner of Thursday’s final preliminary match between England and New Zealand in a blockbuster semi-final. Jamaica will take on the losing side, with the winners of the two games progressing to the gold medal match.
“It’s surreal, we’ve not beaten Australia at a Commonwealth Games and to come here and do it with an incredible team, just go out there and prove everyone wrong was really good,” Fowler said afterwards.
“Australia is No 1 and if we beat the No 1 team, that means we can do anything,” she added. “We want to go home with either a gold or a silver medal, but we’re going for the gold, that’s always been our focus.”
“We probably let ourselves down with some execution stuff in that last quarter,” Diamonds center Kate Moloney said. “Up until three-quarter time, up by six goals – credit to Jamaica but we probably should have been able to run that one out. [But] when they’ve got weapons like they do … you never really have it.”
Jamaica’s gameplan was evident from the outset, get the ball to Fowler early and often. It turned the center third into a battleground as players hit the deck on numerous occasions. Jamaica jumped out to a 7-3 lead but Australia hit back, Bueta matching Fowler’s 10 first-quarter goals as they took a one-goal lead to the first break.
Australia started imposing themselves in the second quarter as they opened up 27-23 lead, but to the delight of the crowd, Jamaica stormed home to get within one at the long break. The third quarter was all Australia as they jumped out to a six-goal lead before Jamaica’s late surge.