IT can't be said often enough that Jamaica's national netball team, the Sunshine Girls, did this nation proud at the 2022 Commonwealth Games. It's not merely the fact that they won the silver medal — a historic feat for Jamaica in international netball — but the tactical skill and prowess they displayed throughout the competition are also proof of the improvement they have made over the years that kept them among the world's top four netball teams.
As we had pointed out in this space earlier this week, the Sunshine Girls came within five goals of conquering the mighty Australians in the gold-medal game.
On their way to that historic encounter they had edged the Australians by just two goals at the group stage — their first-ever victory over the Aussies. Before that they conquered traditional powerhouse New Zealand in the knockout stage.
It is worth repeating that the Jamaicans fulfilled the ambition of top shooter Ms Jhaniele Fowler at the start of the tournament who declared, "The last Commonwealth Games we got the bronze medal so... we're looking forward to making it to the final for this one."
That speaks to the grit and determination in this team which, we believe, will advance further up the international ranking sooner than later. Such an achievement, though, will require more than the tenacity of the players. It will need heavy funding, as is the case with all sporting disciplines.
That reality was highlighted in yesterday's edition of this newspaper which reported that the Sunshine Girls are looking at a $40-million budget to get them ready for the Netball World Cup set for July 28 to August 6 next year in South Africa.
The road to the World Cup will see the team travelling to New Zealand in September at a cost of approximately $7 million. Jamaica will next host the regional qualifiers for the Netball World Cup in October and will also field a team.
After that they will travel to New Zealand for the Fast5 tournament, and will then compete in an international series next year January or February which will cost another $7 million, approximately. Following that, Netball Jamaica will stage a local camp to prepare the team ahead of the World Cup.
"So, in total, we need a minimum of $41 million," Netball Jamaica's first vice-president and former Sunshine Girls Captain Simone Forbes told this newspaper.
We endorse the call by Netball Jamaica President Tricia Robinson for more support for the players and the programme going forward. As such, we recognise and commend Sagicor, which recently renewed its $1-million sponsorship of the Sunshine Girls; Beryllium, which has pumped $5 million into the programme under a two-year deal; and Wray & Nephew which, just ahead of the Commonwealth Games final, announced that it would pour $14 million into Netball Jamaica, thus making that company the association's biggest sponsor to date.
Sport, as we have often pointed out, is big business. What needs to be done now in Jamaica is to professionalise the existing leagues so that they provide financial benefit and experience, as is the case in other jurisdictions.
That the talent exists here is very obvious. It needs nurturing and further development.