Sunshine Girls hungry for success ahead of Nations Cup, says Francis
JAMAICA Sunshine Girls Head Coach Connie Francis says her team is “hungry” for success ahead of the Vitality Netball Nations Cup in England, set for January 19-26.
The four-nation tournament includes world champions New Zealand, hosts England and South Africa. Matches are slated for Motorpoint Arena in Nottingham, Arena Birmingham and Copper Box Arena in London.
The Nations Cup is to be the Jamaica senior team’s first competitive outing since a series of dispiriting performances led to its fifth-place finish at the Netball World Cup in Liverpool, England, last July.
The inevitable coaching shake-up followed, and in October, Francis, who previously guided the senior Sunshine Girls between 2007 and 2011, was brought in as Marvette Anderson’s successor.
“All in all, these last few weeks I’m really satisfied with what I’m seeing in training. I think they are ready; they are hungry,” Francis, a standout former Sunshine Girl player, told the Jamaica Observer.
The 12-member squad named for the Nations Cup comprises seven players — Jhaniele Fowler, Shanice Beckford, Jodi-Ann Ward, Nicole Dixon, Khadijah Williams, Shamera Sterling and Kadie-Ann Dehaney — who featured at the World Cup.
The less seasoned quintet of Shimona Nelson, Gezelle Allison, Shadian Hemmings, Latanya Wilson and Shannika Johnson have a combined 12 Test caps.
The Sunshine Girls coach is content with the blend of experience and youth.
“I’m very satisfied with the group that we have. It creates a very nice balance because we have the youthful players who are ambitious and want to go out there to show the world that they can play. And I like how they gel with the senior players,” she explained.
“To prepare a team to go into such a tournament within three months is very challenging, but I embrace it. I think we have a good squad and the training has been going well enough,” Francis added, noting the sparsity of practice games.
At the 2019 World Cup, Jamaica’s fate was effectively sealed following crucial losses to South Africa, who went on to finish fourth, and to England, who claimed the bronze medal.
Francis, who told the Observer that she saw some of the World Cup action, said the Sunshine Girls looked a shadow of themselves, and she is expecting a better version of the team later this month.
“I thought that we weren’t ourselves. It was a lacklustre attempt to me. I really can’t point fingers at what happened, but it was evident that wasn’t our style of game, and we didn’t look ourselves.
“Our opponents will take us seriously [at the Nations Cup]. We were behind them based on what happened at the last world championship, but I think they will be mindful. We are also going to be mindful because we know what we are up against.
“Some errors that we have made we will be able to correct them, and I think it will be a very interesting series. I expect us to do very well and I predict that at the end of the day we will be very satisfied,” she said.
The Sunshine Girls are scheduled to continue preparation with a practice game this evening.
Jamaica squad — Jhaniele Fowler, Shimona Nelson, Shanice Beckford, Gezelle Allison, Jodi-Ann Ward, Nicole Dixon, Khadijah Williams, Shadian Hemmings, Shamera Sterling, Kadie-Ann Dehaney, Latanya Wilson, Shannika Johnson.