Netball, bloody hell. Tracey Neville’s England won Commonwealth Games gold today with a last-gasp win over world champions Australia which was reminiscent of her brothers’ Champions League win 19 years ago.
The memorable phrase used by Alex Ferguson, the Manchester United manager when Gary and Phil Neville won the 1999 European Cup to complete the treble in Barcelona, could easily be transported to Australia’s Gold Coast after an extraordinary performance and astonishing finale.
Helen Housby’s last-gasp goal earned a 52-51 win, sparking jubilant scenes.
“Bloomin heck,” head coach Tracey Neville said.
“I actually said to them: ‘Can you win by a few more goals because this isn’t pleasurable on the bench?’”
Gary Neville was cheering on from his living room in the early hours of the morning, British time.
“His wife sent me a video,” Tracey Neville said.
“He was literally at the telly going: ‘C’mon, Helen, go on.’
“I remember the treble in Barcelona when they put that goal in. I was on tour at the time and I was screaming in a room at 4am.
“Everyone says what does it mean to the Neville family. We just live, eat and breathe sport. We support each other 100 per cent.”
In the roles of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Teddy Sheringham — the stoppage-time goalscorers at the Nou Camp — here were Jo Harten and Housby.
It was Housby who kept her composure to deliver a victory which England Netball hope will be just the start and will inspire all for the 2019 World Cup in Liverpool.
Tracey Neville said: “The actual gold medal was meant to be won at the World Cup next year. Hopefully we can back this up.
“This dream can be anyone’s. Everyone wants to win, even my mum at 64 who is still playing.”
For Tracey Neville, a Commonwealth bronze medallist in 1998, the victory fulfilled a long held dream.
Harten’s last-gasp goal in Saturday’s defeat of Jamaica sent the Roses into a first global final since 1975, after last-four appearances at all five prior Commonwealth Games, three of them bronze. Australia had three prior golds and two runner-up appearances.
That final 43 years ago ended in defeat to Australia, but the Roses were determined not to settle for silver and delivered the gold.
Tracey Neville added: “It’s was a dream as a player and I’m living it as a coach though these players.”
Geva Mentor, playing at her fifth Games, said: “Hopefully this is the start of something amazing for the sport in our country.
“I hope this lifts our profile. We know participation is high, but we need more people to know what we are doing.
“We’ve got a World Cup in our back yard and it’s time to cement what we’ve achieved here.”
This was one Ashes battle which, unlike the cricket, was close.
Australia led by four goals in the final quarter, but England wrested the initiative and Housby delivered when the pressure was at its height. After Harten had missed, Housby claimed the rebound and netted, after she was fouled.
Fittingly, the last word belongs to the 23-year-old Carlisle player.
“It’s a blur. I just remember having the ball in my hands and then running away screaming,” Housby said.
“I don’t really have any words. I’ve dreamed of this for a long time. This is the best day of my life.”
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