England goal keeper Geva Mentor is relishing the prospect of shaking up netball’s well-established world order on the eve of the hosts’ Commonwealth Games rematch against Australia at the NEC in Birmingham on Saturday.
Mentor and her team-mates head into the unexpected semi-final showdown on a high after thumping world champions New Zealand 54-44 on Thursday, after Jamaica had upset the odds to sink the Australians and claim top spot in Group A.
The result means England and Australia will reprise their thrilling Gold Coast showdown one match earlier than expected, with the prize at stake a place in the final that had proved the sole preserve of the Oceania nations until the famous win four years ago.
The opportunity to make more history is not lost on 37-year-old Mentor, who is playing in her record sixth Commonwealth Games, and whose success in stifling New Zealand goal shooter Grace Nweke – 17 years her junior – on Thursday played a pivotal part in her team’s success.
“It would be a final we have never seen before, and it would be really exciting and refreshing for world netball.”
England have built slowly through the tournament but delivered in style against the Silver Ferns, who pipped them in the semi-finals of the last World Cup in Liverpool in 2019.
But she warned against any complacency against the Australians, who blew a six-point final-quarter advantage to crash to a shock defeat.
“We were training while their game was going on and we didn’t really mind who was going to come out on top.
“It’s nice to know who your enemy is going to be, but I think we’ve set the tone and it has opened up the possibility of a different grand final on Sunday.”
But she conceded the convincing nature of the triumph against a team they could well meet again in Sunday’s final served as a significant motivational tool.
“At the end of the day it hasn’t changed the course of where we were getting to,” said Thirlby.
“We were already in the semi-final but I think if you can arrive there having taken the scalp of a team above you in the world rankings it’s a better place to be.
“We’ve got a big task against Australia and they’ll be wounded as well. It’s excited the crowd and it’s given us the test that we’ve needed, but it hasn’t really changed anything. It’s the winners of the next two games that really matters now.”