Australia has suffered a historic three-goal loss to Jamaica at the Commonwealth Games, rocking their gold medal campaign in Birmingham.
The Diamonds had been expected to sail through their Pool A matches and meet the second ranked team in Pool B in the semi finals.
But they coughed up a six-goal lead heading into the final term to suffer their first ever loss to the Sunshine Girls.
A brilliant 47 goals from international superstar Jhaniele Fowler and some remarkable defensive efforts from Shamera Sterling ensured Jamaica nailed a 57-55 win.
Fox Netball’s Catherine Cox said the Diamonds “just shut up shop” in the last quarter as Jamaica ran home with the win.
“Australia couldn’t win the ball back – it was some brilliant defensive work from Jamaica. They really just lifted another level in the fourth quarter,” she said.
Questions will be asked of coach Stacey Marinkovich’s selections, with just Sunday Aryang entering for four minutes in the second term and Sarah Klau coming on to a rejigged defensive line with four minutes remaining in the match.
Gretel Bueta finished the pick of the Diamonds attack, despite being silenced in the final quarter by Sterling, with 36 goals from 39 attempts.
Steph Wood’s night ended with 19 goals at 86%.
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Australia opted to start Gretel Bueta at goal shooter, with Steph Wood and Liz Watson out in front of her. Kate Moloney got the nod at center with Ash Brazill, Jo Weston and Courtney Bruce rounding out the defensive trio.
For Jamaica, Jhaniele Fowler started at GS, with Beckford and Williams at GA and WA respectively. Nicole Dixon-Rochester was centered with Super Netball trio Jodi-Ann Ward, Latanya Wilson and Shamera Sterling the starting defenders.
The world’s best shooter started the match with a bang, with five quick goals to open up the first break of the match for Jamaica.
Courtney Bruce kept her West Coast Fever teammate in Fowler as high as she could, but Shanice Beckford was brilliant around the edges to keep feeding from close range.
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Bruce and Jo Weston got early tips, but it was Jamaica who were able to convert while down the other end the connection to Gretel Bueta just fell away.
“The Diamonds are stunned here,” commentator Sue Gaudion said.
Australia scored just three goals in the opening seven minutes, before Steph Wood went from range and leveled up scores.
A Jodi-Ann Ward intercept gave Jamaica the lead once again as the long ball caught Weston’s eyes down.
“They exposed the Diamonds defense again,” Gaudion said.
A quick double play by Bueta ensured the Aussies took the lead with less than two minutes remaining in the first term.
Coach Connie Francis was left less than impressed when the Sunshine Girls threw away a brilliant Sterling intercept.
“But that is the issue – the conversion of those brilliant moments,” commentator Cath Cox said.
By the first break, it was Australia leading by one goal.
The Aussies went unchanged for the second term – the first time this tournament coach Stacey Marinkovich has opted for no changes after a break.
A big Sterling rebound gave Jamaica the first opportunity, but they couldn’t convert as Courtney Bruce’s brilliant hands over disrupted play.
“There’s plenty of feeling out there,” Cox said.
“Courtney Bruce giving the death stare to Beckford.”
The Aussies chanced their luck feeding Bueta with Sterling in hot pursuit but the move continued to pay off.
When Shanice Beckford found the top of the circle, the Sunshine Girls opted for a rare straight ball feed to Fowler.
“On the circle edge, feeding to Fowler – unbeatable,” Cox praised.
A rare mistake by Bueta saw the replay called, but once again Jamaica couldn’t convert as Khadijah Williams was penalized for footwork.
“It’s the simple things letting Jamaica down isn’t it,” Cox said.
Sunday Aryang was introduced at goal defense, joining her Fever teammates Bruce and Fowler in the goal circle.
And she almost had the immediate impact, getting a tip on a high ball to Fowler, but ultimately couldn’t stop the conversion.
Beckford had a brilliant intercept in front of Ash Brazill and suddenly the margin was back to one.
“Connie Francis willing them on,” Gaudion praised.
Wood backed her teammate Bueta when she went with the feed from the transverse, and the Firebird didn’t let her down with beautiful hands.
“The courage to let that go over the best goalkeeper in the game … look at that take,” Cox praised.
By half time, it was Australia leading 30-29.
Weston returned to the court as some bad hands by Wood allowed the Sunshine Girls to draw level early in the third.
Jamaica managed to pull down another deflection but once again threw it away in the midcourt.
“That long outlet ball, if they just shortened it up and do one safety ball, I reckon they’d get themselves on the attack,” Cox said.
A rare shooter contact call on Fowler handed Australia the chance to pull away. Sterling’s cheeky pickup when Bueta put the ball down to set the penalty didn’t go unnoticed by the umpire as suddenly the lead was back out to four.
The physicality stepped up in the third, with Brazil getting under the skin of Adean Thomas and sent sprawling into the goal circle off the ball.
Once again, a Ward pick up on the circle edge ended up sailing over Fowler’s head as another turnover was wasted.
A second straight rejection from Sterling was called for obstruction as the crowd started to find their voice.
A misdirected midcourt ball ensured another turnover as the Diamonds extended the lead to six – the biggest of the match.
A strong take by Bueta over Sterling in the dying seconds ensured Australia took a 46-40 lead at the final change.
Marinkovich went unchanged once again for the final term as Jamaican wing defender Jodie-Ann Ward came through with the deflection to help her side close within three.
Williams’ return at WA lifted the Sunshine Girls’ attack in the final term.
And when Wood couldn’t regather the short ball, Jhaniele Fowler made the Aussies pay seconds later to close within one goal.
Liz Watson overcooked the lob to Bueta, and remarkably the Sunshine Girls took the lead with eight minutes to play.
“We haven’t seen that this game – that is the pressure. Mistakes like that have been few and far between for the Diamonds,” Cox said.
Despite Jamaican assistant coach Rob Wright pleading with his defenders to shut down Wood’s influence, it was Bueta they silenced as Wood had to step up.
And the Lightning star was up to the challenge with three successive mid-range shots.
Another Diamonds turnover, this time from Weston to her Vixens’ teammate Watson, gave Jamaica a two-goal buffer as injury time was called.
Weston headed to the bench, Bruce pushed out to GD and Sarah Klau was introduced for her first minutes of the night.
When Shamera Sterling came up with the big rejection and regather, Jamaica pushed out the lead with just a minute to play.
And in remarkable scenes, the Sunshine Girls held on in the thrilling final seconds with Shanice Beckford landing the final goal of the match.
In the end, it was Jamaica who claimed the win 57-55.