Tonight, I watched two basketball games. Both games started with God Defend New Zealand and Advance Australia Fair because both games were Australia against New Zealand. In both games, the New Zealand team represented themselves well. Both of these games were Game 1 of 3 in their respective qualifying for the London 2012 Olympics. In both games Australia won. But in only one game I am compelled to say New Zealand was robbed.
Let’s start with the Opals v Tall Ferns. For those who don’t know, that’s the Australia and New Zealand women’s basketball teams. The Tall Ferns didn’t end up in the lead at all during the match, I don’t think – they did get quite close in the dying stages, but let it all go. They played very well though, and I hope they will take from it that the Opals are definitely beatable and come back in Game 2.
But then we get to the interesting match. The Boomers against the Tall Blacks. Other than a pretty terrible second quarter, I would say New Zealand stayed in it throughout the whole game. They actually looked like they were going to take the lead for a bit until one series of incidents. Australia will probably tell you it was just the last incident, but that’s not the case.
Firstly, Mika Vukona was hit square in the face by an Australia elbow. They didn’t do a replay of it, and from the first viewing I couldn’t be sure, but it could have been intentional. However, an elbow to the face should have been a foul. But it wasn’t – the ref didn’t call it.
Then, Kirk Penney was pushed in quite an aggressive, almost unsportsmanlike shove. Once again, should have been a foul but wasn’t.
Then Mika Vukona attempts a block and is called for a blocking foul. While justified, it was a pretty weak call. Mika Vukona got a bit angry and started pushing some people around and we had a bit of argy-bargy. It settled, the Tall Blacks were pulled for a technical, and that was it. The technical was definitely justified and I wouldn’t suggest anything other than that.
But from there, the Boomers started pushing their aggression because they knew that the ref wasn’t going to pick them up, and the Tall Blacks held back because they knew they ref would pull them up on absolutely everything. That’s not really the case, and I’m not saying the refs were biased at all. What I am saying is that’s presumably what the players thought. And that’s what lost NZ the game.
If the referee performance was at or above standard, one of those two fouls in the beginning would have been picked up and New Zealand may have won the game. Not an excuse, as the Tall Blacks shouldn’t have let that phase them, but really that shouldn’t have been there to phase them in the first place.
Both series are 0-1. Who’s keen for NZ to sweep the last two in both series?