Steve Jancetic / AAP News
The Diamonds have suffered a surprising loss in the side’s final pool match against the emerging Jamaican side and now will await to find out who they face in the semi-final.
Jamaica’s furious final-quarter comeback to take down world No.1 Australia has the Sunshine Girls believing Commonwealth Games netball gold is within their grasp.
Led by superstar goal-shooter Jhaniele Fowler, Jamaica came from six goals down at the final break to stun the Diamonds 57-55 in front of a raucous NEC Arena crowd in Birmingham on Thursday.
Fowler – the four-time Super Netball MVP with West Coast Fever – was simply unstoppable, pouring in 14 of her 47 goals in the final quarter, including five straight to turn a 48-45 deficit into a 49-48 lead.
“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.
“Most definitely it does mean more (to beat Australia). Why do we go down from here? It’s only up from here.
“Australia is No.1 and if we beat the No.1 team that means we can do anything.
“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.”
Jamaica celebrated the win with a team dance on court after the game, Fowler saying “It’s what makes us feel vibrant and happy so we do it.”
This one will sting for the Diamonds, who had not dropped a quarter all Games until Thursday’s final period.
After weathering the early Jamaican charge, they had seemingly asserted themselves in the third quarter with some brilliant mid-court play.
Australia’s two-pronged attack of Gretel Bueta (36 from 39) and Steph Wood (19 from 22) did all they could to get Australia home, but the loss handed top spot in Pool A to Jamaica.
The Diamonds will now face the winner of Thursday night’s final preliminary match between England and New Zealand in Saturday’s semis for the right to advance to the gold medal game.
“We probably let ourselves down with some execution stuff in that last quarter, ” centre Kate Moloney said.
“Up until three-qua rter time, up by six goals – credit to Jamaica but we probably should have been able to run that one out.
“When they’ve got weapons like they do … you never really have it.”
Should the Diamonds get another crack at the Sunshine Girls in the final, they will need to find an answer for Fowler’s brutal combination of size, strength and skill.
As she has done in the Australian league for years now, Fowler did as she pleased on the court, the Diamonds admitting there’s little they can do to stop her once the ball gets anywhere near the shooting circle.
“She’s such a target in there, we really need to protect Courto and Sarah (Courtney Bruce and Sarah Klau) in that goalkeeper position,” Moloney said.
“Once it gets to circle edge there’s not much they can do. It’s up to us to slow that ball down.”
Centre Paige Hadley was again missing for the Diamonds due to a calf injury and she will continue to be monitored ahead of Saturday”s semi-final.