THE gold medal match for netball at the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester is remembered for being one of the greatest matches in the sport’s history.
But the first thing that Diamonds star Sharelle McMahon recalls is the physical and emotional rollercoaster of the sudden-death double overtime thriller that saw Australia triumph over archrival New Zealand.
McMahon — who was battling an ankle injury — hit the shot that gave the Diamonds the decisive two-goal margin for Australia to claim gold after the 84-minute slugfest against the Silver Ferns.
McMahon was part of the Australian side that won the gold medal in 1998 in Kuala Lumpur when the Diamonds saluted in netball’s debut at the Commonwealth Games.
The hard-fought three-goal win over New Zealand in Malaysia seemed like a cakewalk compared to the drama in Manchester.
“So much comes rushing back, Manchester was a fantastic host city and the actual final itself was incredible,’’ she said.
“There was about 10,000 people in the stadium and it was the last medal awarded so everyone was in party mode — for everyone watching at least — which meant the atmosphere was amazing.
“There was just this constant level of noise for the whole match. It was back-end-forth, we played well, they played well. There was just nothing in it.
“We were already spent at the end of regulation time when the scores were tied.
“So much emotional energy had gone into it.
“You are exhausted, you are in pain but you have to get out there for extra-time and go again and keep fighting.’’
It was 46-all at the end of the fourth quarter, 54-all at the end of the first period of overtime with a final score of 57-55 after McMahon’s matchwinner.
McMahon — who hit a total of 33 goals in the 2002 decider — was lucky to even be on the court.
“I rolled my ankle a couple of days before the final and was doing everything I could — getting injections, taking painkillers, getting it iced around the clock but I felt good when the game started,’’ she said.
“But I was struggling to walk by the end of the game because the painkillers had worn off.’’
Confusion reigned supreme at the end of regulation time.
Extra time included two periods of seven minutes.
If the scores were tied at the end of the second lot of seven minutes, the game rolled straight into sudden-death with one team needing to win by two goals.
“We couldn’t hear anything. It was deafening. We didn’t know how much time was left and didn’t know we had gone into double-extra-time,’ McMahon said.
“We didn’t know what was going on. The people on the bench were holding up two fingers. We thought there was two minutes to go but they were trying to tell us it was two goals.
“It was confusing and frantic and just so tense. It was the first time we’d experienced a sudden-death double extra-time.’’
With ball in hand for the gold medal-winning shot, McMahon had to endure one last delay.
“Time was held so sweat could be wiped off the floor. I was standing there knowing that the next shot I was going to take was for the gold … no pressure,’’ she said.
“Time got blown back on after the delay, I put up the shot and it went through.
“There was just an incredible rush of emotion after that.’’
Coached by Jill McIntosh and also featuring the likes of Liz Ellis, Catherine Cox and Kathryn Harby-Williams, the Diamonds swept all before them in the pool rounds at Manchester and disposed of the home nation in the semi-final before taking on the Silver Ferns for gold.
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McMahon went on to compete at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in her hometown of Melbourne while she was on the wrong end of a sudden-death double overtime gold medal game in Delhi in 2010 when New Zealand won a nailbiter.
The 118-Test veteran and two-time World Cup winner expects the netball competition on the Gold Coast next month to be the most open race for medals ever.
“In the Quad Series involving Australia, New Zealand, England and South Africa, there were some very tight games with some really interesting results. England is very close to the Diamonds and Silver Ferns,’’ she said.
“South Africa is coming through too under Norma Plummer who has worked wonders. They’ll be pushing the top teams.’’