Australian Netball Team
The year was 1938. The Loch Ness Monster had just been sighted for the first time. Cole Porter was dominating the charts. And on 20 August, at the All Australia Carnival in Melbourne, seven women walked onto a netball court to play the New Zealand national team. It was the world’s first international netball match.
Australia won that first game 40-11 (but who’s really counting…) and it set the tone for future of Australian netball. Nobody knew it at the time, but the spirit of the Diamonds had just begun.
By this stage, the sport was still known as ‘women’s basketball’. And while it was gaining popularity in England and several British colonies, women in Oceania were leading the charge. One of sport’s greatest rivalries was brewing across the Tasman.
In 1939, an Australian team was selected to tour New Zealand, but they wouldn’t set foot in Aotearoa until 1948 (due to the outbreak of WWII). Australia won all three test matches on the first New Zealand tour, beating the Kiwis in Dunedin (27-26), New Plymouth (44-13) and Auckland (44-22).
In 1956, the Australian team made history again, sailing to England for the maiden test against the Poms. On the way, the team stopped off in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) to play another international match at St. Bridget’s Convent in Colombo, where they beat Ceylon 22-12.
The England test went the same way as New Zealand. Despite having to adapt to different rules, the Aussies won 54 out of 57 games, including Tests against Scotland (25-7) and England (14-11) at Wembley Stadium before a crowd of more than 5,000.
It was the tour that sent netball pro. In 1957, the rules for netball began to be standardized, and by 1960 the Federation of Netball and Women’s Basketball (later the International Netball Federation) was formed to govern the sport worldwide. Netball had officially arrived.
It’s hard to reconcile the Australian Diamonds with those humble beginnings in 1938. They’re not just the world’s number one netball team, they’re one of the most dominant teams in sporting history.
The Diamonds have won 11 out of 14 World Cups (including the inaugural World Championships in 1963). Since netball became a Commonwealth Games sport in 1998, Australia has won three gold medals. They’re the number one team in the INF World Rankings, and the reigning World Champions (having defended their title in Sydney in 2015).
The Australian netball team was formerly nicknamed The Diamonds in 2008.