There is huge anticipation within the Netball Jamaica (NJ) hierarchy and among players ahead of the return of goal shooter Romelda Aiken to the Sunshine Girls training squad in preparation for this year's Netball World Cup (NWC) in Cape Town, South Africa. The tournament is to be held from July 28 to August 6.
The 34-year-old Aiken, regarded as one of the greatest goal shooters to have ever played the game, was forced to miss the Sunshine Girls' historic silver medal-winning performance at last year's Commonwealth Games in England after giving birth to her son in August in Australia.
She recently returned to the courts in the Australian Suncorp Super League competition with the New South Wales Swifts, after making the switch from Queensland Firebirds. She had played 14 seasons with the Firebirds.
Simone Forbes, the first vice-president of NJ, told the Jamaica Observer her organisation is very delighted that Aiken has returned to competitive action in the netball's top club league. She said that Aiken has a vital role to play in the Sunshine Girls team for this year's Netball World Cup once she is selected by the coaches.
"I think it is exciting news and it is exciting for Romelda and we are extremely happy that she is able to come back and do what she loves," said Forbes.
"She is a part of the squad and she has always been and she will be here available for the World Championships for Jamaica.
"It is an exciting year for Jamaica in netball and having a player like Romelda, who comes with a wealth of experience and leadership, is going to be very critical to Jamaica's success at this year's World Championships," she said.
The six-foot, five-inch tall Aiken, a two-time Most Valuable Player of the Suncorp Super League and a three-winner of the championship, was an emergency call-up for Jamaica in September of last year — only six weeks after giving birth — to be a member of the Sunshine Girls team for their three-Test series away to New Zealand. However, she did not make an appearance for the country in the series, which the Jamaicans lost three-nil.
Forbes shared that Aiken, a former Jamalco player, has shown a lot of qualities in her two matches for the Swifts so far.
"She is a part of the squad and not on the team yet but she is looking good and we have seen both matches and she has played so far and she looks good after having a baby less than a year ago," she said. Shanice Beckford, vice-captain of the Sunshine Girls team, said Akien has a massive role to play in the team.
"I am happy with the fact that she is back and ready to go represent us at the World Championships in Cape Town, South Africa," said Beckford.
"I am really excited and can't wait to see what will happen in the selection process of the team for the championships. With her years of experience, I think Romelda will add a lot to the team with her leadership skills," she said.
Aiken will be vying for the goal shooter position on the Jamaica's team along with Captain Jhaniele Fowler and Shimona Nelson, who are also playing in Australia's Suncorp Super League.