A stepping stone for Jamaica’s netball
(From left) President of Netball Jamaica Tricia Robinson, sports minister Olivia “Babsy” Grange, President of Americas Netball Marva Bernard, and past president of International Netball Federation Molly Rhone during the press launch of Netball World Cup qualifier at NCB Wellness and Recreation Centre in Kingston on Thursday.<strong id="strong-abf07160e8df01dd310d6c042ba9bc88"> (</strong>Photo: Collin Reid)

Jamaica has been the dominant netball-playing nation in the Americas for as long as most people can remember, and in 2003 hosted the World Netball Championships.

Yet, we hear this country has not hosted a senior regional netball tournament since 1990.

So, it’s with a sense of ‘better late than never’ that this newspaper welcomes the planned staging of the Netball World Cup qualifying tournament for the Americas region in Kingston, starting October 15, 2022.

By reason of their fourth-place ranking in global netball, Jamaica are automatic qualifiers for the Netball World Cup to be held in Cape Town, South Africa, July 18 to August 6 next year. However, as hosts, Jamaica will be participating in the October qualifying tournament, bringing to nine, the number of teams scheduled to compete.

As we understand it, a 10th invited team could also participate.

Eight regional countries Barbados, Antigua & Barbuda, the Cayman Islands, Grenada, St Lucia, St Vincent & the Grenadines, Trinidad & Tobago, and the USA will be battling for two World Cup spots.

By October, Netball Jamaica will have also competed in the Commonwealth Games scheduled for July/August in Birmingham, England.

Ms Annette Daley, a coach with the Netball Jamaica Development Programme, is reported as saying that a number of young, developing players will play in the regional qualifiers to gain valuable experience and give a “rest” to some senior players.

It’s possible, we believe, that a few of those younger players could stake a claim for World Cup spots.

We say that while recognising that some top national representatives including overseas-based professionals are virtually assured of their places.

Jamaicans who follow netball closely will recall disappointment at the last World Cup in 2019 when the Sunshine Girls then ranked number two globally finished fifth, performing way below their best.

Obviously, netball, like other sporting disciplines, suffered badly at the developmental level over the last two years because of the lockdowns and general dislocation caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

But regardless of the pandemic, actual achievements on the netball court in recent years have fallen below reasonable expectations.

Top national netballer Ms Shamera Sterling said as much as she critiqued Jamaica’s team play following a 1-2 loss to third-ranked England in that country late last year.

“I’d love for the team to get more structure in how we play...we have great players individually but we are unable to put them together for it to work,” Ms Sterling, who plays professionally in Australia, said.

Back then, Ms Sterling also pointed to resource constraints and the need for all stakeholders to “come together to help...put back Jamaica’s netball team on track ...”

We expect that the regional tournament in October and before that, the Commonwealth Games, will not only provide important stepping stones from a technical and tactical standpoint, but also encourage corporate support as the Sunshine Girls aim for the medal podium in South Africa next year.

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