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1999: Netball nightmare for NZ

By By Michael Burgess

Published: 3:26PM Friday November 16, 2007 Source: ONE Sport

The Silver Ferns arrived at the 1999 Netball World Championships as the hottest of hot favourites.

The Yvonne Willering coached-squad were the form team heading into the tournament and had the advantage of playing on home soil, for the first time since 1975.

Jill's Geriatric's

The Jill McMahon-coached Australian side were seen by many as past their peak, and faced both Jamaica and England in pool play - by far the toughest side of the draw. They were even derided as 'Jill's geratic's' in the New Zealand media.

Both teams made their expected journey into the final, though the Fern's had a tougher than expected 55-53 semi-final win over Jamaica.

New Zealand dominated the match and by three-quarter time had an unassailable six goal advantage. As Australian defender Liz Ellis later said, it was a deficit the Australians had no right to make up in a 15 minute period.

Video - 1999 - Watch as the Ferns an unlikely defeat from the jaws of victory - sport should not be so brutal! (1:24)

*Warning: Some scenes may induce nightmares!

Mental meltdown

But the Silver Ferns wobbled, and as the tension grew, the team in black melted.

In the final minute Donna Loffhagen missed two relatively simple opportunities to wrap up the match, then Australian substitute shooter Sherelle McMahon made no mistake, netting the winning goal with one second on the clock.

Video - Watch - if you can - as one of the true New Zealand netball nightmares unfolded (1:22)

It was an incredible comeback by the green and gold team, though many have seen it more as an inconceivable 'choke' by the Ferns.

Cruel fate

The match commentators, thrilled by the spectacle while horrified by the result wondered aloud about the unfairness of second place.

A youthful Bernice Mene perhaps encapsulated best the feelings of a stunned nation when she said " How could fate be so cruel".

The Ferns had endured similar last minute losses in 1991, 1995 and 1998 at the Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur.