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All's not lost!

Netball coach Allison-McCracken admits more work needs to be done with Sunshine Girls

Observer staff reporter

Thursday, May 25, 2017

When Jermaine Allison-McCracken took over as head coach of the Sunshine Girls, she knew that it was no easy task.

A 1-1 draw in their recently concluded three-Test series against the Barbados Gems was her first international assignment with the number four ranked Sunshine Girls and it was just what the doctor ordered.

The series, which saw both teams playing out a 44-44 stalemate in the first game last Friday night, was followed by the Sunshine Girls taking the second with a 40-34 scoreline on Sunday, then ended with some excitement, as the number 12 ranked Gems secured an upset 43-41 victory on Monday night.

It was the first time since 1984 that Barbados were bettering the Sunshine Girls at the senior level.

Having seen the players in a competitive athmosphere, Allison-McCracken is now aiming to put things into perspective ahead of their Caribbean Championships in August and by extension the Commonwealth Games next year.

The Englishwoman was quick to point out that inexperience was among the factors which contributed to the Game Three defeat, after opting for a youthful squad which included seven first-timers.

“I am disappointed; we brought it [in the first game] and we brought it for three quarters of the game today, and then the last quarter they lost it literally in the last five minutes. So, yes, a lot of disappointment and I think the players will be disappointed as well,” she told journalists in a post-game interview at the National Arena on Monday.

“I haven't had a chance to do that because it is so early in the season for me, five weeks at most. So I just need to structure them so they know where they are supposed to be on court that they can support each other in those roles,” the UKCC Level Two qualified coach added.

Three of the more experienced Sunshine Girls in Shanice Beckford, Nicole Dixon and Khadijah Williams are facing suspension, while the others are currently plying their trade on the international circuit.

Allison-McCracken noted that this unfortunate situation allowed the younger players — some of whom have been a part of the senior set-up before, but without much playing time — to step up to the task. But still there was something missing.

“One of the things that I have always said is that we need the stamina in the girls... they need to go back in the pool and the gym and really work on their fitness, and they need to work as team members in supporting each other more so that they know where they are supposed to be on court.

“Inexperience is only inexperience until you have had the experience and this was their opportunity to step up. They did for three quarters and then it was very hard, so there are some things around the discipline that I would like to see my players have and bring to the court that I didn't see, so I still need to drill some of that in,” the tactician explained.

However, the experienced campaigner, with over 40 years under her belt, took one positive from the outcome: it allowed her the opportunity to identify the gaps that need to be filled within the team.

“It means that I need to do some more work,” Allison-McCracken acknowledged.

She continued: “I knew that there was a limited depth in the squad because many of the players that I would like to draw on are not here in the country at the moment, so I am looking forward to meeting some of those players.

“So there is still a lot of work to do and I am looking forward to working with the team and I am looking forward to see some of the international players come and join us. It is really early days; I know it's a real test, but we haven't lost, we have drawn this series, so it is all to go for in the future.”