Aussie netballers create history at Games

Australia’s junior and open netball teams celebrate winning gold medals at the 2017 Maccabiah Games in Israel.

AUSTRALIA created netball history at the 2017 Maccabiah Games by becoming champions in both the open and junior competitions.

During two weeks full of team sport highlights for Australia at these Games, the netballers’ double achievement stands out by a country mile.

After heading into the grand final undefeated, our open side won their gold medal match against Great Britain 39-28, but the decider was much closer than the final score suggests.

The Aussies were forced to work hard at both ends of the court all game.

Gabi Mendelow and Hayley Mrocki were influential for the green and gold in the attacking zone, shooting their hearts out in a dominant scoring display.

Taryn Levin and Paige Roseman expertly patrolled centre court and paved the way for the fast-paced style of play that was integral to Australia’s game plan.

Captain Vanessa Mrocki made some massive turnovers and played a key defensive role at crucial times.

A veteran of the team, it was her second consecutive taste of Maccabiah gold, having been a part of the winning 2013 open side.

“It [the grand final] was a really tough game and they [Great Britain] nearly had us, but we just kept fighting to the very last minute – it was just awesome,” the captain said.

For our junior team, smashing Great Britain 51-27 in their Maccabiah grand final made losing the 2013 decider to the Brits feel like ancient history.

The Australian junior team was also undefeated all tournament, and were switched on from the opening whistle in the grand final.

Captain Mia Futeran and centre Jordi Bolaffi were strong and quick on their feet in mid-court, creating constant scoring opportunities for their teammates.

Australia never surrendered their early lead, and accurate shooting by Georgia Strasser and Shai Stern ensured their ascendancy.

While the British side made a mini-comeback late in the first half, the quality shown by the Aussies proved too much and the margin only increased in the final term.

Defenders Yasmin Halas, Natalie Lenwood and Goldie Karp were effective as a unit, and wingers Tayla Cohen, Taye Miller and Gina Seligsohn were always busy.

It was a victory that buried painful memories from four years ago for the Aussie girls.

Coach Suzie Mordech said the result was especially satisfying, describing it as the ultimate reward for two years of hard work and training together as a team.

“It was teamwork which did it,” Mordech said.

“We were pretty confident that we could do it as long as we played our style of game, and if we believed in ourselves – and we did.”

Captain Mia Futeran was almost lost for words about what winning gold meant for the team.

After a few deep breaths, a beaming Futeran said “We all came together and fought hard for it, and we were able to win.

“It was incredible.”

SHANE DESIATNIK