Netball stars hope home advantage propels them to Commonwealth final

Netball stars hope home advantage propels them to Commonwealth final

Birmingham’s Eboni Usoro-Brown and Stacey Francis-Bayman are hoping home advantage will prove decisive as England take on arch-rivals Australia in this weekend's Commonwealth Games netball semi-finals.

The defending champions beat world champions New Zealand by a whooping ten points in their final group game on Thursday to set up a red-hot final four date with the world's number one side.

There are no easy routes to defend their title here but Australia - who have never not reached a Commonwealth Games final - were shocked by Jamaica's Sunshine Girls in their final group match.

"We're arriving at the semi-final having taken the scalp of a team above us in the world rankings and that's got to be good for confidence," said coach Jess Thirlby, after the 54-44 win over the Kiwis.

"It's a better place to be than picking ourselves up from a loss. This group like making history and we've got a big task against a wounded team.

"Australia will be very rational about their performance against Jamaica, and they've still got the same route as us to the final.

"I've been in this job three years and gone on a big journey with these players. This is still a group game, but the group will take a lot of energy from that performance."

This summer, Team England, supported by funding raised by National Lottery players, comprises of over 400 athletes, all vying for medal success.

Before their win on the Gold Coast, England's Roses and Jamaica had traditionally slugged it out for the bronze medal but perhaps there is a new netball world order to disrupt that Anzac spirit.

Helen Housby's dramatic last-gasp shot for glory in the Gold Coast meant netball was always one of the hottest ticket at these Games.

And Australia have made no secret they are out to avenge losing so dramatically on home soil, so don't expect a friendly game at the Friendly Games.

No team has ever lost a match in the group stages and won gold while England have lost, drawn and won their last three games against the 11-time world champion Diamonds.

"How bloody exciting, if we can get the job done on Australia on Saturday and Jamaica can beat New Zealand, it would be a final we've never seen before, that's so refreshing and exciting for netball," said team veteran Geva Mentor, who produced a defensive masterclass against New Zealand, while Eleanor Cardwell and Housby held their nerve to drain the goals.

"They'll go away and do their homework, I know how hard they'll view the game and I expect them to be licking their wounds.

"They'll think they know how to break us down and it'll be a really sharp contest out there. We are really going to utilise our home court advantage and hopefully that will get us over the line."

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