Only the most confident members of the England netball squad harboured genuine hopes of returning from the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast with a gold medal.
Hosts Australia were the overwhelming favourites for the tournament and England’s at times less-than-convincing path to the final suggested little more than a predictable finale.
Here the PA news agency recalls the day that England’s netball squad upset the odds.
The statistics were against England from the start – they had not beaten Australia since 2013, and never at a major tournament. A tight group game against Uganda was followed by a frantic fightback from six goals down to edge out Jamaica in the semi-finals and set up what looked to be a brave challenge that would end in a silver medal.
Australia might have breezed through the tournament without a care in the world, but it quickly became apparent that England were up for the fight. They matched their illustrious opponents throughout the contest, and entered the final quarter only two goals down. They clawed back to level and the match headed into its final seconds with England holding the advantage of the centre-pass at 51-51.
The golden point
Jo Harten, who had inspired England’s semi-final fightback, wasted a snatched chance at goal, and Helen Housby also fell short. But late contact call gave Housby a chance with a penalty shot, and she converted it on the buzzer to spark riotous celebrations in the England camp. “As a shooter you dream of that moment,” admitted Housby. “But you never believe it’s really going to happen. It’s the best day of my life.”
England returned to rapturous acclaim and a slew of team of the year awards. The surge in interest in the sport was made plain by a superbly hosted Netball World Cup in 2019, in which the vast majority of sessions at the 20,000-capacity Liverpool Arena were sold out. England fell short in a semi-final defeat to New Zealand, but the nation’s new-found passion for the sport was perfectly evident.