Connie Francis salutes on-top-of-her-game Beckford
Former national senior netball Head Coach Connie Francis says Sunshine Girls’ goal-attack Shanice Beckford deserves her contract in the Suncorp Super League in Australia, and she is confident that the player will represent the nation well in the championships.
Beckford, 28, a key figure in the Sunshine Girls’ goal-attack position for the past eight years, recently signed a one-year contract with West Coast Fever for the 2024 season. She is set to join forces with her compatriot, the five-time league MVP Jhaniele Fowler. Fellow Jamaican netball standout Kadie-Ann Dehaney, who spent the last two seasons with the Sunshine Coast Lightning, further fortifies the Fever’s line-up.
Francis, who served as the head coach of the Sunshine Girls team from October 2019 until September of this year, told the Jamaica Observer that she has always envisioned Beckford playing in the highest league in the world because she knew that she has the potential to do it.
“When I took over the team, I saw the potential not only in Shanice but also in some other local players who I think are more than capable of playing in the Suncorp League in Australia,” said Francis.
“I have had discussions with Shanice about improving her game, stepping up her game, her defensive work, and her shooting accuracy. I have seen her grow in every tournament and just strive to do better,” she said.
“I thought that this has come at the right time when she is at the top of her game. She has expressed about wanting to retire from the sport, but I have always encouraged her that she should go on as long as she can, and certainly she is more than capable of playing in the Suncorp League,” Francis said.
She highlighted the positive timing of Beckford’s call-up and the discussions they had in the past. “When she got the call-up, we had a discussion, and she said, ‘Coach, you always believed that I could,’ and I said, ‘Yes, this is your opportunity to just go out there and do your best,'” Francis explained.
“We all believe in the work that she has been doing over the years, and there is certainly room for improvement. I think that Suncorp will help her to develop into that fantastic player that she has shown the potential to be,” said the veteran coach.
Beckford brings valuable overseas experience to the team from her time in the Vitality Netball Super League in England, where she was signed by Team Northumbria in 2015.
Expressing her belief in Beckford’s deserving opportunity, Francis shared insights from their past discussions. “I think that she is more than deserving of this because when I came back into the programme, it was one of the discussions that Shanice and I had that I would love to see her playing in Suncorp. She had doubted herself, but she has certainly worked on all aspects of her game to get this opportunity, and I know that she is more than capable of not letting herself down because this would have been one of her dreams.”
Francis stated that she is very impressed with the talent emerging from high school championships in Jamaica and, therefore, she is pretty confident that more Jamaican players will make the transition to the Suncorp Super League in the future.
“I went and watched the high school championships and I saw real good talents because these coaches out there are certainly contributing to the growth of netball in Jamaica,” she said.
“The Holmwood, the St Catherine, and so the coaches have been working hard to ensure that these players can continue their trade and hopefully be a Sunshine Girl and, who knows, go on to play in any of the top leagues in the world,” said the veteran coach.
“It is there because our future in netball is always bright; it doesn’t matter, we have always had good players coming through in Jamaica,” Francis emphasised.