Australia beat arch-rivals New Zealand to claim another Quad Series title in a final marked by one of the most controversial refereeing moments in recent netball history.
The Diamonds overcame an early deficit in Cape Town to claim a 56-50 win over the Silver Ferns, but it was a fourth quarter that had players and commentators in disbelief.
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As New Zealand captain Ameliaranne Ekenasio scored a goal, her teammate Grace Nweke and Diamonds defender Courtney Bruce tangled over the ball in a hand-to-hand tussle that left them both sprawled on the court.
However, referee Anso Kemp, distracted by a brave bargy, said he did not see a goal, although he started to signal that the goal had gone in.
Fellow referee Gary Burgess said he also missed the goal because he was looking downfield instead.
The two referees agreed and ruled that Ekenasio’s goal could not have been counted without a VAR-style replay system, as neither of them had seen the ball go through the ring with their own eyes.
In one of the strangest scenes from a basketball game, the referees decided to conduct a rare shootout on the net ball.
Commentator Jenny Woods said: “How come there is a situation where no referee can see if a goal has been scored. This is unusual.
“It’s nuts! We have proof that the goal was scored.
“Surely they could have gone to the bench!
“Now we’ve seen everything in this game.”
Australian legend Cath Cox was stunned by the refereeing controversy.
“I can’t believe my eyes!” she said on Fox Netball
“We have to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Wow, wow, wow.
“I’ve never seen anything like it in any game I can remember.”
Interestingly, Kemp told Burgess that the goal “wasn’t kicked” so it must have been an “Australian shot”.
“To be honest, I don’t know what to suggest,” Burgess said, in the kind of words you never hear come out of a sports official’s mouth.
The incident overshadowed the Diamonds’ excellent comeback after conceding 19 goals in the first quarter.
Both coaches preferred to keep the starting team on the field for the full 60 minutes, so no team was substituted throughout the game.
Nweke was one of New Zealand’s best with 39 goals at 87% accuracy, while Australian goal attack Steph Wood once again put on a clinic in third with Cara Koenen.
Veteran full-back Ash Brazill, recalled to the Australian squad after missing the second half of last year, staked his case for a World Cup spot with several interceptions and deflections.
The win sealed Australia’s seventh Quad Series title and was a welcome confidence boost for the Diamonds ahead of the Netball World Cup in South Africa in July.
The World Cup, hosted by New Zealand, is the only major trophy not in Australia’s cabinet after its successful completion from 2022.
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Originally published as ‘It’s crazy!’: ’emergency’ umpire wins ‘farce’ in Australian Quad Series Netball final