Coach thinks inclusion of English-born Dixon will boost Sunshine Girls
According to Shawn Murdock, co-coach of Jamaica’s senior women’s netball team for the 2023 Fast5 Netball World Series, the inclusion of English-born Rhea Dixon is a much-needed boost to the Sunshine Girls as they aim to win the tournament.
Dixon, who had represented England at the Under-21 level, will be making her Sunshine Girls debut after expressing an interest in representing Jamaica for some time. She is qualified to represent Jamaica through her grandmother, who is Jamaican.
Dixon has a total of 360 goals from 525 attempts and 36 caps in England’s Netball Superleague. In the league, she has played for Surrey Storm, Leeds Rhinos, and Loughborough Lightning.
Dixon, who did not play a single game for Surrey Storm in 2019, netted 221 goals from 325 attempts in 23 matches over two seasons at Leeds Rhinos in 2021 and 2022, and scored 139 goals from 200 attempts in 13 caps this year at Loughborough Lightning.
Murdock said he is excited to have Dixon on the squad and believes she can make a positive impact on the team.
“Her [Dixon] inclusion is a positive for us. Just as we treat the players who play overseas, we’re able to watch their games. The games are accessible so we can see what they’re doing,” Murdock told the Jamaica Observer.
“In Rhea’s case, we asked her to do a fitness test which she recorded and sent back to us. We’re hoping that her exposure from playing in the Vitality Superleague overseas will add a positive impact to our playing squad and thus we’re excited to have her.
“She’s good from what we’ve seen of her. We’ve been watching her because we’ve been following her in the Superleague for the last few seasons because we’ve had players who were part of the league. We’ve been following it because of the players we have there,” Murdock added.
Murdock said that Dixon plays three positions — goal shoot, goal attack, and wing attack — but she will figure in the Sunshine Girls’ squad as a goal attacker.
“We know of her talent. We’ve seen her on display for her different teams because she would have switched two teams, I think, since we started following it. We know of her progress. She was part of the team that won last season.
“She was a goal attacker for the team that won last season. There is some level of pedigree to her name and we’re hoping we can get to push her even more to be better for us. So she’s going to play a goal attacker for us. In fact, she covers three positions but she’ll play a goal attacker for us.
“This is her first time playing for the Sunshine Girls. She would have expressed an interest for a little while and I guess nothing happened before the time. So now we have her as part of the group and we’re trying to be successful,” Murdock explained.
The rest of the roster is made up of young players, including three members of the recent World Cup squad. Romelda Aiken-George, Adean Thomas, and Crystal Plummer competed in the Sunshine Girls’ recent World Cup, where they earned bronze. Aiken-George will captain the team, with Thomas serving as her deputy. Abbeygail Linton will also make her Sunshine Girls debut in this format of the game. And, according to Murdock, he sees this as a chance for his young players to grow. They stated that they intend to expose their up-and-coming players and hope to achieve positive outcomes, and that despite their lack of experience, they feel that by executing their approach, they may cause trouble for their opponents.
“Our Elite League locally is not as robust as the one that’s played overseas in the countries of our major competitors. So this is an opportunity for us to expose the players that we have who are up and coming and on the cusp of becoming the next senior Sunshine girls.
“So it’s kind of a pathway for us. We know it’s a young team but we’re also glad that we’re able to expose the athletes and then from that platform we’re hoping to do some damage.
The team’s preparation has been challenging, but Murdock said they are working on being more intentional in their decision-making on the court.
“The response has been good in terms of what we’ve been trying to accomplish as a coaching staff. It’s been challenging but we’ve gotten to the point where we’re trying to be more intentional in terms of the decision that we want the ladies to be able to make on court.
“We’re trying to tailor the rest of our sessions going forward to be more intentional in what we want in terms of execution and so when we get to New Zealand we’ll be ready to give our best,” Murdock ended.
The Fast5 Netball World Series 2023 is to be staged from November 11 to 12 at Wolfbrook Arena in Christchurch, New Zealand.
The world’s six most experienced Fast5 women’s teams — New Zealand, Australia, England, Jamaica, South Africa, and Malawi — are to compete at the event.
Romelda Aiken-George (captain), Adean Thomas (vice-captain), Gezelle Allison, Theresa Beckford, Rhea Dixon, Abbeygail Linton, Amanda Pinkney, Crystal Plummer, Kimone Shaw, and Abigale Sutherland.