Marva's master stroke to lift netball regionally at least

By Dwayne Richards
Observer writer

Thursday, July 26, 2018

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Netball in the Americas will never be the same again, and chances are the global game may just be in for a significant boost following the inaugural staging of the Americas Federation of Netball Associations (AFNA) Champion of Champions High School Netball Tournament in Kingston, Jamaica, last week.

The competition, which is the first of its kind whether regionally or globally, allowed for the top high school netball teams from six countries in the Caribbean to participate in a week-long championship.

Teams from hosts Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, St Lucia, Dominica, and Grenada battled for the right to be called champion of champions with the two teams from Jamaica and Barbados advancing to the semi-finals. Both Jamaican teams then advanced to the final, where Excelsior High got the better of rivals Holmwood Technical in the championship game, while Christ Church Foundation got the better of their Barbadian rivals Springer Memorial in the third place play-off.

The AFNA committee, led by their Treasurer Marva Bernard, who is a former president of Netball Jamaica, has now given new life to the sport through the staging of this competition as many of the coaches and associated staff of the teams see it as a bridge to the World Under-21 Championships.

The competition has been given rave reviews by a number of the coaches who applaud the timeliness of its staging.

Christopher Smart, who coached the champion team Excelsior High, applauded the organising committee for a great job.

“I think this competition can definitely grow and be better. I have to commend Mrs Marva Bernard and her committee, I think they outdid themselves. When we look at the surroundings, the settings and the sponsorship, the people coming out to support, I think it can only do good for the region.”

Smart also believes that teams will learn from this first staging and will grow from it.

“I am sure that all the teams that came to Jamaica that participated in this competition will be taking something back and, come next season, I am sure we are going to have tougher challenges, especially from the teams from Barbados, because they were not bad at all. I think the pedigree that Jamaica has where netball is concerned outdid them, and I am sure going back to the drawing board they will be coming back better.”

Carline Graham-Powell, of runners-up Holmwood Technical, says this type of tournament was a first for many of her players.

“We need to continue with this tournament. It's something that we are looking forward to. these girls really enjoyed it. Most of them have never been in a tournament such as this, and a lot of them have sights on the World Youth Tournament and so this will prepare them for that tournament that is coming up in 2021.”

Sandrine Jordan, coach of the Christ Church Foundation team, was overwhelming in her support of the tournament.

“It's a very good tournament. It has room for improvement, but it's the first so, so far so good, but as I said it's a very good tournament. We have the Under-21s coming up, and it's a lead- up to the Under-21 competition, and this is a way that you can bring your teams and groom your teams and get your teams ready for that tournament.”

Jordan is certain that more teams will participate next year and is in favour of the competition being hosted in a different country each year.

“Yes, yes, they will hear about it, and you will have a lot more teams next year. For sure we will be back! I agree that it should move from country to country so that it will not put a stress on everybody to come to Jamaica all the time,” she said.

Jesse King, coach of Springer Memorial, who finished fourth in the competition, also heaped praises of the organisers.

“For growth and development for netball, clearly this is a good idea. Whoever came up with the initiative did a fantastic job.”

King urged the organisers to play more of the games indoors to help the girls to become acclimatised to that sort of environment.

The overwhelming response to the tournament both from participating teams and the fans is sure to catch the eyes of the world governing body, the International Netball Federation (INF), whose president is the Jamaican Molly Rhone. She was at the tournament to get a first-hand view of all that took place, so it will not come as a surprise if more regions within the sport of netball institute similar tournaments in the near future.

Bernard, who is known in Jamaica for her ability to get the “impossible done” said, “The regional governing body (AFNA) along with the Local Organising Committee have pulled off this inaugural event knowing, not only can we dream up new ideas, (but) we can successfully accomplish those dreams.

“We have brought together youngsters from six countries in our region for a competition which turned out to be much more than just a netball tournament and one more exciting than even the most optimistic among us could have anticipated.”

The decision as to the venue of meetstaging will be made at the next AFNA annual general meeting to be held in Barbados next month.

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