The World Netball Tournament was an early initiative by the International Federation of Women’s Basketball and Netball Associations (now IFNA ), established at a 1960 conference called by the All England Netball Association (AENA ). (New Zealand resisted the term “Netball” until 1970.)
The Chelsea College of Physical Education, in Eastbourne on the south coast of England, had the honour of hosting the first World Championships in August 1963. Eleven teams played each other in round-robin fashion over 13 days, with Sundays as rest days. The title-deciding match was played on 8 August when Australia beat New Zealand 37-36, so beginning a tradition of fierce trans-Tasman rivalry for Netball’s premier championship. So far, that rivalry has been disrupted only three times, when England finished second in 1975; in 1979, which produced a three-way tie; and in 1995, the year South Africa made the final ahead of the Silver Ferns.
Led by Judy Blair, whose daughter Belinda played at the 1995 & 1999 tournaments, New Zealand took its first world title at the 1967 championships, in Perth, Western Australia. Singapore was the sole debut team that year.
In 1975 the championships were held in New Zealand, at Auckland’s Windmill Road Courts. Lois Muir remembers sitting courtside with rain trickling down her back – weather that matched New Zealand’s mood after drawing with Australia and going down by one goal to England. Fiji and Papua New Guinea made their debut appearances that year. Four years later in Trinidad, a record 19 teams arrived, among them Uganda and seven Caribbean sides competing for the first time. It was also the first time the title was shared, by Australia, New Zealand and Trinidad & Tobago.
The tournament was held in Asia for the first time in 1983, when Singapore was the host. Hong Kong and Malaysia made their first appearances that year, and New Zealand sent a team full of outstanding players – but it was Australia that won the final, 47-42.
Scotland in 1987 was memorable for several reasons. There was the fine debut by the Cook Islands, who finished sixth of 17 teams, and the 50-all game between Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago. There was Australia’s loss to New Zealand and a controversial draw with the ‘Calypso Girls’. And finally came New Zealand’s 49-37 defeat of Trinidad & Tobago to win their second world title.
The 1990s indisputably belonged to Australia. Coached by Joyce Brown, then Jill McIntosh, they won in Sydney, Birmingham and Christchurch.
Ten teams attended their first world championships during the decade, including Samoa, Malawi and the United States.
In 2003 Kingston became the first city to host Netball’s world championships for the second time, and Jamaica celebrated with a 46-40 defeat of England in the playoff for third place. Only two goals separated
New Zealand and Australia in the final but this time the margin was in the Silver Ferns’ favour. For the first time in 16 years, they returned home with Netball’s most coveted trophy.
In 2007 Auckland becomes the second city to stage the tournament twice, and New Zealand the first three-time host nation. A new format was introduced for the 12th championships, now limited to sixteen
qualified teams. It was Australia who took the title.