Sam Poolman has guided the Australian Fast5 netball team to a third place finish in Melbourne, but for Newcastle’s queen of netball her stint in the captain’s chair may feel disappointing.
Despite a strong start to the short-format tournament, including victories over Jamica and Malawi to open their account, Australia just couldn’t overcome the Fast5 hoodoo that has dogged the squad since the competition was founded.
The team’s woes began in their third match of the opening day, when they fell just short to a strong New Zealand outfit, 32-34, before Australia slipped into the third-place play-off match against Malawi.
The hosts entered day two at Melbourne Arena with a 2-1 record and needed two wins over England and South Africa to secure a place in the final, but they were upset by England in a 29-28 loss.
The Jamaicans secured their place by beating previously undefeated New Zealand 23-22 in their first game of day two.
Although the home side was able to defeat Malawi for a second time in the tournament, the missed opportunity of a grand final will be a bitter taste after talks of claiming the trophy for the very first time came thick and fast in the week leading up to the Melbourne-hosted competition.
“We’re really disappointed, I think we have played some really good netball the last two days but I think that’s the beauty of Fast5 is that anyone can win the game,” Poolman told the media after their final match of the tournament.
“So we’re really disappointed because it’s one of the best performances that Australia has put out in Fast5. We were hoping to be the first group to do that. It was disappointing this morning not to finish against England, but that’s the way it goes.
“I just think everyone in our side has had a really good performance this year in Suncorp Super Netball and showed what they can do from their club point of view and then it’s the next step up to actually do that on the international stage.”
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With many of the Australian squad players young rising stars, Poolman said it was an “achievement” to give them a taste of the green and gold, despite falling short of the major prize.
“We only came into camp on Monday so to get your head around the game, the way to play it and to get the confidence to take those long shots is tough,” Poolman said.
“Real credit to the girls for stepping up on the international stage. All our shooters turned and shot and had the confidence to do so.”
In the end it was New Zealand and Jamica battling it out for the gold medal, with the Kiwis claiming the 2018 Fast5 Netball World Series after a 34-33 thriller.