Ahead of the 15th Vitality Netball World Cup 2019 in Liverpool, we are looking back at the last time England hosted the tournament in 1995.
A record 27 teams were involved, a rainbow nation returned from the sporting doldrums to surprise many while the hosts finished fourth once again; this was the story of the World Netball Championships in Birmingham.
The inaugural event also took place on these shores in 1963 in Eastbourne but it would be 32 years before England welcomed netball’s flagship competition once again.
Over 200 volunteers contributed towards making the tournament a success with a national poster competition held within primary schools to help generate publicity.
Prince Edward was the guest of the honour at the opening ceremony as an exciting summer for the world’s netball stars commenced.
Liz Broomhead was the Roses’ Head Coach having volunteered her services for several decades towards the development of the sport in this country and later globally with her role at the International Netball Federation (INF).
Her captain Kendra Slawinski (née Lowe) led an England side seeking to improve on four consecutive fourth-place finishes.
Placed in Group D alongside Barbados, Singapore and Northern Ireland the Roses opened their campaign with a convincing 56-27 win over their UK rivals.
The Bajan Gems were similarly dismissed 61-29 by Broomhead’s team before England concluded a dominant first-round group stage display with a 95-21 thrashing of Singapore.
Under the competition’s format, there were no semi-finals meaning the winners of Groups Y and Z in the second round respectively would contest the final and the two runners-up would fight for third place.
England won five out of their six matches but failed to top Group Y as a 77-54 defeat to South Africa prevented them from reaching a coveted final on home soil.
The team’s hopes of a bronze medal, which they attained in Eastbourne, were also dashed in a demoralising 60-31 defeat to New Zealand in as the hosts had to settle for fourth once again.
South Africa and Australia contested the final with the latter prevailing 68-48 to retain their title and lift the World Cup trophy for the seventh time.
As the dominant force in international netball, The Diamonds run to the showpiece occasion was unsurprising.
The surprise came in the journey of their opponents.
Appearing at the 1967 tournament in Perth, the Proteas would not feature at another World Cup for 28 years.
The South African government’s apartheid policy prompted an international sports boycott to be imposed on them as the country were banned from the Olympics, suspended by FIFA and restricted from touring in cricket and rugby.
The INF followed suit as the nation’s netball prospects were curtailed for nearly three decades.
Therefore, arriving in Birmingham a year after the democratic elections ushered in the era of the rainbow nation and subsequently a return to international netball there was little expectation the Proteas would threaten their more finely-tuned opponents.
However, that victory over England was among nine they recorded in a remarkable run to the showpiece occasion.
Australia proved just too much to overcome at the final hurdle but for a nation ostracised in the sporting landscape for so long for political reasons, their performance in Birmingham were incredible.
And having been barred from the World Cup, South Africa will host for the first time in 2023 with the International Convention Centre in Cape Town taking up the reins when Liverpool 2019 comes to a close.
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By Leon Waite