Prestigious award for Sunshine Girl Shamera Sterling; other J’cans recognised
MELBOURNE, Australia (CMC) – Shamera Sterling led a trio of Jamaican netballers who earned recognition on Saturday during the Netball Australia (NA) awards.
Sterling was voted the Super Netball League Player of the Year after a stellar campaign with first-time champions Adelaide Thunderbirds (T-birds)in which she led the way with 118 deflections and made 46 interceptions.
At the same time, NA announced that fellow Jamaican defenders Latanya Wilson (Sterling’s T-birds teammate), and Jodi-Ann Ward earned selection to the Super Netball Team of the Year.
Sterling, a member of the Jamaica Sunshine Girls team for the past seven years, was part of the T-birds defensive unit that enabled the side to finish second in the preliminary competition and enjoy their best year in the league with the title.
The 28-year-old was dominant in defence and created opportunities from which her teammates were able to capitalise, and was outstanding for the T-birds in the grand final when she was a handful inside the offensive arc for Sunshine Girls teammate and icon Romelda-Aiken George.
Sterling also grabbed a crucial intercept with the clock winding down that earned the T-birds a 60-59 win against the New South Wales Swifts in the grand final which had the pink army erupting in cheers at John Cain Arena.
For Wilson, the awards were a double delight after it was announced that she earned selection in the wing defence and goal defence positions, while Ward earned her place at the goalkeeper position.
Wilson finished the season with the fourth-highest deflections of 70 and interceptions of 40 and she was credited with also playing a crucial role in shutting down offensive lanes, while Ward was runner-up to Sterling for interceptions with 40.
The awards for the Jamaican trio will be bittersweet because their immediate professional playing future still looks uncertain, with no clear end in sight for the bitter pay dispute between NA and the Australia Netball Players’ Association.
Super Netball players collectively boycotted the awards ceremony, one of the marquee events on the calendar of the national governing body, but members of the Australia Diamonds national team were forced to attend because they were contractually obligated to do so.
The Australian Netball Players’ Association (ANPA) said in a statement that players were steering clear of the event following close to eight weeks without income because of the absence of a new collective player agreement, which means all players are out of contract, with sparse job security, and no wages.
“With no agreement on our collective player agreement, SSN players have been unpaid for nearly eight weeks,” the statement indicated.
NA have agreed to mediation with the ANPA on a new pay deal after negotiations, which have been ongoing since February, broke down last month, with the players favouring a revenue-sharing agreement instead of the profit-sharing proposal advanced by the national governing body.
The players have subsequently handed over their intellectual property rights to the ANPA, meaning the league requires permission to use the players for promotional material ahead of the next Super Netball season.
It also complicates matters for Wilson, 22, who is still trying to pick up the pieces after she lost most of her worldly possessions in a house fire, including her 2023 Netball World Cup bronze medal, 2022 Commonwealth Games silver medal, and SNL winners’ medal.
For Ward, it’s also a difficult time after the Collingwood Magpies club, the side for which she played last season, decided to withdraw its licence from the league following a review focused on the viability of the netball programme into the future.
The club indicated in a statement that the challenges NA has experienced and continued to experience in terms of profitability, combined with the current impasse regarding finalising the players’ agreement, were key to the decision.