A ray of light for the Sunshine GirlsSaturday, November 27, 2021
Like everything else, sport here and elsewhere has taken a beating from the novel coronavirus pandemic.
We believe it is fair to say that locally no sporting discipline has suffered more than netball, which has been — for as long as anyone can remember — among the most popular outdoor recreational activities for Jamaican women.
Promise of some relief for Netball Jamaica close to a year ago ended in disappointment when a scheduled tour of England by the national team, the Sunshine Girls, had to be postponed because of the rampage of the virus in that country.
It's a matter of great relief that with high vaccination rates, particularly in the developed world, including Britain, and consequential significant reductions in hospitalisations and deaths, the trip to England is now taking place.
It followed recent good preparation for the fourth-ranked Jamaicans, with three home wins against 10th ranked Caribbean sister nation Trinidad and Tobago.
Now, after two satisfactory and victorious warm-up games earlier this week against England A, the Sunshine Girls, led by Captain Ms Jhaniele Fowler, will face their third-ranked hosts tomorrow in the first of a three-match Vitality Roses Reunited Series.
Like England, the Jamaicans are preparing for the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham next summer with the Jamaicans hoping to better their bronze medal performances of 2002, 2014, and 2018.
The Commonwealth Games will be followed by the 2023 Netball World Cup in New Zealand.
Netball followers will recall that at the last World Cup in England in 2019, the Sunshine Girls, then ranked number two globally, performed way below their best, to finish fifth.
Currently, Australia are number one in the global rankings, with world netball champions New Zealand in second place.
Given the setbacks caused by the pandemic, Jamaica, like other under-resourced countries, will undoubtedly find themselves at a disadvantage as they seek to break into the top three over the next two years.
Even before the pandemic, Australia, New Zealand, and England held a distinct advantage over others because of their competitive professional leagues.
Yet, Jamaicans, more particularly our women — brimming with pride and self belief — are accustomed to punching above their weight.
We note that for this England tour Netball Jamaica has gone for a mix of hard-nosed experience and youth. Ms Fowler has with her such senior players as Ms Shanice Beckford, Ms Adean Thomas, Ms Khadijah Williams, and Ms Shamera Sterling. Also, exciting young goal attack Ms Amanda Pinkney is expected to make her senior début on the international stage.
We are very pleased that four members of the Under-21 development squad — Ms Kelsey Jonas, Ms Kimone Shaw, Ms Mikeala Walker, and Ms Tafiya Hunter — are in England with the national team as training partners.
The value of this trip to England and the recent visit to Jamaica by Trinidad and Tobago can't be overstated in the context of preparations for the upcoming global tournaments.
Note the comment of Coach Ms Connie Francis: “Each time we play we expect improvements…”
Hopefully, ways will be found for the Sunshine Girls to stay sharp and constantly improve in the months ahead.