NWC 2023: Australia 84 – Tonga 38
Boosted by their hard-fought victory over Fiji on the opening day of the tournament, the ever-improving Tonga team came out firing against 11-time Netball World Cup champions Australia in their Group A clash in Cape Town on Saturday.
The Tongans used their physicality to exert a good deal of pressure on the Diamonds, also matching their speed to ensure it was a tight first 15 minutes.
Taking on a team playing in just their second Netball World Cup and ranked six places below them in the world, the Australians would most probably have expected to be further ahead than 15-13 at the first break, but it was an impressive opening period for the Tongan Tala.
Aussie coach Stacey Marinkovich stuck with her starting seven in the second quarter and a 10-goal blitz at the start of the period saw the Diamonds pulling well ahead as normal order was restored.
Goal attack Steph Wood came on in the third quarter, so earning a 50th cap for the Australians as Paige Hadley (WA), Jo Weston (GD), Sophie Garbin (GS) and Sunday Aryang (WD) also came off the bench.
As the game progressed, the Tongans seemed to run out of steam and their early intensity dissipated. They faced a 35-goal deficit by the final break and the Australians continued to dominate to wrap up an emphatic 84-38 win.
Jamie-Lee Price was named Most Valuable Player. Speaking afterwards about the number of turnovers in the first quarter of the match, she said: “Obviously it’s something we need to look at. We adjusted slowly in the first quarter, so I think it was just sticking to our gameplan – that’s all we needed to do, really and just adjust to what they were putting out there.”
Commenting on earning her 50th cap for her country, Wood added: “It’s really special when you get to pull on the Australian dress, just to do it once is a goosebump moment but to think I’ve been able to play 50 games is something really special and something I’m really proud of.”
Tongan captain Hulita Veve said: “I think we came out firing. I think we had the energy and we came out to play hard. We just needed to work on our consistency in the second quarter and then we lost momentum, but we’ll go back and work on that one.”
Q2: 39-19 (24-6)
Q3: 63-28 (24-9)
Q4: 84-38 (22-10)
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Jamie-Lee Price