‘Play hard and execute!’
SINCE its inception in 1963 the Netball World Cup has traditionally been controlled by Australia and New Zealand. But Connie Francis, head coach of Jamaica’s senior women’s netball team, is confident her Sunshine Girls can undo that tradition at this year’s 16th staging of the global showpiece.
After defeating defending champions and five-time World Cup winners New Zealand 59-48 in Group G on Wednesday, Jamaica will face world number one and 11-time World Cup champions Australia in the second semi-final today at 9:00 am (Jamaica time) at International Conventional Centre in Cape Town, South Africa. New Zealand and England will contest semi-final one at the same venue at 4:00 am (Jamaica time).
Jamaica last faced Australia at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England, where both teams won a game. Jamaica defeated Australia in the Group stages 57-55 before Australia returned in the final to defeat the Sunshine Girls 55-51 to win the gold medal.
The stage is now set for the greatest netball match party in history between the two powerhouses, with fireworks expected from the first whistle.
Much has been written and said about the Sunshine Girls’ entry into this competition, which has exceeded many people’s expectations. And, if all goes as planned, Francis said the netball community — particularly the little island of Jamaica — would celebrate Independence Day on August 6 in grand manner.
A victory for Jamaica today will not only ensure their position in the finals but will also end a 16-year streak of not medalling at a World Cup since their bronze medal in 2007.
“The expectation going into this match is the same as all the other games — play hard and execute all the strategies while enjoying the game, and work as a unit by supporting each other,” Francis told the Jamaica Observer.
“Victory here and making it into the finals on Sunday, it would mean a lot for these ladies who haven’t won a World Cup medal and also to give something special to our country for Independence,” added Francis who is a former player of the game.
The Sunshine Girls have won six straight games, and Francis believes the massive win against New Zealand will give her charges the boost they need to finish first in the 2023 Vitality Netball World Cup, and getting by Australia her in their first step to glory.
“They [Sunshine Girls] performed well to expectations. Having a few days before competition helped the coaching staff to work on different combinations that work successfully against the different style of play that each country plays,” Francis stated.
“I think we executed our game plans well against New Zealand and was clinical in keeping our composure during the 60 minutes of play that is required to beat a top-class team. We are just going out there against Australia and to play our brand of netball with confidence, strong in mind and body,” Francis further stated.
Francis stated that attacking turnovers will be critical in determining the outcome of this game.
“Just keep down our attacking turnovers. This tournament it [attacking turnovers] is remarkably low but we can get it even lower, but [we are] looking for easier options. I am extremely happy to see how all players [are] putting out 110 per cent and enjoying the challenge that we face each match,” the former captain of the Sunshine Girls said.