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High-riding Sunshine Girls face $40-million World Cup bill
Jamaica’s silver medal-winning Sunshine Girls celebrate after a match at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England, recently. (Photo: Naphtali Junior)

Still on a high from their historic performance at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England, Jamaica's Sunshine Girls have already turned their attention to the 2023 Netball World Cup with Netball Jamaica facing a $40-million budget to get the team ready for the sport's marquee tournament.

The Jamaicans, contesting their first final at the senior international level, lost 55-51 to world number one-ranked Australia at the National Exhibition Centre Arena on Sunday, bringing the curtains down on a highly successful campaign at the Games.

They had earlier secured their first win over Australia during the group stage of the competition with a 57-55 scoreline.

Their performances before and during the Commonwealth Games have already attracted corporate support for the national netball programme with Sagicor, Beryllium, and most recently, Wray & Nephew, coming on board.

However, as first vice-president and former Sunshine Girls Captain Simone Forbes explains, Netball Jamaica is still in need of significant funds as it looks to prepare the team for the tournament, which is set for South Africa from July 28 to August 6 next year.

"We are ecstatic, we are excited, the girls did a phenomenal job at the Commonwealth Games and we are extremely proud of them," said Forbes. "This is the journey to Cape Town and the Commonwealth Games, as per our plans, is the first stop."

The girls will travel to New Zealand in September, which will cost Netball Jamaica in the region of $7 million. Already-qualified Jamaica will host the regional qualifiers for the Netball World Cup in October and will also field a team.

They will then again travel to New Zealand for the Fast5 tournament and will face off in an international series next year in January or February and will attract another $7 million approximately.

Netball Jamaica will then stage a local camp to prepare the team ahead of the World Cup.

"So in total, we need a minimum of $41 million, so that is why we are so happy that the girls did so well," Forbes said.

The Jamaicans are the only players from a top-five ranked team in the world that are not paid, and president of Netball Jamaica Tricia Robinson called on more support for the players and the programme going forward.

"Everybody likes winners and we said over and over that when the girls play they don't get paid to play. They wear the black, green and gold proudly and so we are happy when corporate Jamaica comes on-board. We are hoping that many more corporate companies will come on-board. It does take cash to care. It takes deep resources to be at the top and we will be at the top one day," said Robinson.

Sagicor recently renewed its $1-million sponsorship of the Sunshine Girls, while Beryllium pumped $5 million into the programme through a two-year deal.

The programme received a big boost just ahead of the Commonwealth Games final when it was announced that Wray & Nephew would pour $14 million into Netball Jamaica, making it the association's biggest sponsor to date.

"We've started our 'Road to Cape Town' campaign. We've been going to corporate Jamaica and we are thankful for Sagicor and Beryllium coming on-board. We are thankful for Wray & Nephew coming on-board and we are looking forward to many other corporate entities coming on-board, putting in the financial means necessary to take us there," added Robinson.

Meanwhile, Alando Terrelonge, state minister in the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, highlighted the Government's support for the programme and believes there is need for continued engagement.

"They have the support of the Government. Over the years we have supported and we will continue to support them, and of course we would very much wish for corporate Jamaica to come on-board as well. It's a great brand. Not only are they exposing their talent and the skills of Jamaicans, [but] they're also exposing Brand Jamaica, our culture," said Terrelonge.

"Certainly, there is a need to examine other opportunities for support and this is why we are making the appeal to call on the rest of corporate Jamaica to follow suit."

Jamaica failed to finish in the top three at the last three instalments of the Netball World Cup, but had third-place finishes at the 1991, 2003 and 2007 tournaments.

Jamaica's Sunshine Girls celebrate after their semi-final win over New Zealand during the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England, recently. (Photo: Observer file)
BY ANDRE LOWE Sports Content Manager lowea@jamaicaobserver.com

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