Netball

Seeing isn’t always believing

RNZ's award-winning reporter Ravinder Hunia was at both the Cricket and Netball World Cup grand finals. Here's her summary of witnessing New Zealand make history, twice in one week.

If I have learnt anything on this UK tour, it's that seeing is not believing.

While these notebook entries were purpose-built to give you a sense of the 'vibe' experienced, these World Cups needed to be felt to be truly believed.

I have been asked by our RNZ shows First Up, The Detail and Late Night with Karyn Hay, how it felt to be here, and I found myself struggling to answer the question.

How do I describe the feeling and do it justice?

A day later, after mentally downloading it all, I realised there was more to it than just results. Keeping to the notebook rule of thumb, the best way to answer is to paint the full picture as simply as possible for a lucky Kiwi who experienced it all.

Cricket World Cup

Unlike the netball, you had to travel the country to follow the Cricket World Cup. London, Durham, Manchester and back to London (for the final) by train.

What the reader doesn't see is everything that happens in between. All of that human stuff like hotel check-ins, eating properly, learning how to catch a London cab - it's quite daunting if you're alone and have never travelled to this side of the planet before.

But once you put on that accreditation lanyard and get to the stadium, the vulnerability disappeared, even in a male dominated room.

The day before the big dance, you are watching the final touches being applied to the pitch, signage being put up in the outfield, stalls being set up and the numerous fans wandering around the stadium trying to get a sneak peek of their heroes.

The Black Caps are playing what looks like schoolyard games during their training session; another day at work for these blokes. It almost feels like the next day isn't the biggest match of their careers - but it always is.

Lord's Cricket Ground - The Final

While the semifinal win over India will be something etched into my heart for a very long time, the feeling of being at a final at Lord's demanded respect.

You could feel the history all around you. The architecture, the way people conducted themselves, to see what the moment meant to the fans streaming through the stadium; I have never seen anything like it.

So many dream of being in England and the Black Caps shoes at this very moment, this is why they play.

Chris Woakes of England offers his hand as to Martin Guptill as Jimmy Neesham and Ish Sodhi console the NZ batsman following the Super Over. Photo: Getty Images. 

The Super Over

While the Black Caps were unfortunate on this day, the drama of the super over engulfed the entire moment and, in turn, the world.

First of all, what the heck was a super over? Some of cricket's elite media didn't know or didn't know how the rule would be applied.

Confusion, nerves, worry, and excitement - I loved it all and over 20,000 people in the stadium were feeling it with me. During all of this there is an 11 hour time difference with New Zealand, so imagine trying to interpret what is happening then in two minutes, relaying that information LIVE to listeners on Morning Report. It was sink or swim!

The result didn't go our way, but it didn't feel that way at all. You were just so proud that the Black Caps not only went down fighting but proved the world wrong.

They made that grand final what it was, and win or not, go down in the history books as playing in the best one-day Cricket World Cup final of all time.

Netball World Cup

Location: M&S Bank Arena, Liverpool

A total contrast to the cricket. It's only one stadium filled with screaming girls watching 16 international teams of women competing for World Cup glory.

It was all so fast. Six to nine hours of cricket watching turned into 60 minutes of netball at a time.

The Silver Ferns had already been playing their pool matches before I arrived, and winning well.

The first sense of sick feeling in the puku arrived when they played Australia in the preliminary round. The stadium hardly had any people in it, but so much was on the line in terms of the Silver Ferns 'comeback'.

There may have been two umpires on court, but I was well and truly giving my two cents worth to those around me (apologies team). I was invested.

"HELD!" I yelled at one point, before realising I needed to show some professional composure.

If there was anything the women in black needed to do was qualify for that semifinal and that they did, while punters had written New Zealand off, knowing they would face the host nation next.

In the semifinal, I held my face in my hands a lot. Like watching a horror movie, I was so scared to look.

There were patches of black around the stadium, but nothing in comparison to the red and white.

The yelling, the cheering, the screaming aggressively echoing throughout the stadium.

But just like the Black Caps against India, the Silver Ferns defied all odds and qualified for the final dance. At this point, I did not know how much more my heart could take - two international finals in one week? I quickly realised though, this would only happen once in a lifetime.

Grand final day against Australia

I will never forget the morning I woke up, looked out the window and smiled to myself saying: "We are going to win today." That was the Kiwi fan in me.

The New Zealand media at this event, a few who came from the cricket, had a great camaraderie. Messages were flying about the confidence we had for the Silver Ferns - it was just something in the air that made you feel something amazing was about to happen.

While New Zealanders struggled to keep their eyes open in the wee hours of the morning, the contingent here in Liverpool were ready to go at 5pm.

You know when you look for silly little signs to say why your team will win? I was seated at tribune nine - my birthday 9 January - confirmed it. I was supposed to be here for this moment.

The anthems were sung and it was game on.

Once again I served as the invisible National Rugby League bunker with my umpiring in the stands, but make no apology - this was the grand final!

The crowd at this game was a funny thing. Their home side wasn't playing, so one moment they are cheering for New Zealand, the next for Australia. Perhaps it was the netball they were cheering for.

The 52-51 win was a moment. I didn't get to watch it in the stadium as I had to race downstairs to interview players and coaches, and prepare to cross live to our programmes.

It didn't dilute the moment though.

There were warm embraces from New Zealand media, shock on other nation's faces and tears as well. That's the thing with netball, the community isn't as big and just means so much to those who live and breathe it.

Slowly the players come through for interviews. Australia walk through first, tears in their eyes, plucking up the courage to take questions - it's a double blow after missing out on gold at the Commonwealth Games and it was written all over their faces.

Then New Zealand's turn. Casey Kopua just played her last game and here she is describing the experience while baby Maia tries to ram her fingers in Mama's mouth with a gold medal around her neck.

Katrina Rore walks through skipping and captain Laura Langman comes through trying to give her flowers away before it triggers her hayfever.

Much like the Black Caps, the Silver Ferns are applauded for their humbleness, albeit in victory.

New Zealand sporting history made twice in one week, and while there were absolute scenes at both matches, feeling it was believing.

* This story was first published on Radio New Zealand

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