...but Girlz Coach Donaldson remains positive heading to Cup of Nations in Australia
Manchester City ace Khadija “Bunny” Shaw makes late withdrawal from Reggae Girlz team for Cup of Nations in Australia later this month. (Photo: Observer file)

DESPITE taking their first trip down under without ace striker Khadija "Bunny" Shaw, senior Reggae Girlz Head Coach Lorne Donaldson remains confident that his team should still give a good account of themselves in the Cup of Nations tournament.

Donaldson revealed that Shaw, who is the country's all-time leading goalscorer with 55 goals, advised the technical staff on Friday that she is pulling from the squad for next month's Cup of Nations tournament due to personal reasons.

While admitting that the Manchester City striker's absence is a slight setback to their plans, Donaldson believes the show must go on as they continue their build-up to a second-consecutive FIFA Women's World appearance in Australia and New Zealand this summer.

As such, Donaldson and his assistants Xavier Gilbert and Ak Lakhani have added 23-year-old Bristol City striker Shania Hayles as a replacement in the 24-member squad.

Show must go on!

"We would have loved to have everybody onboard, especially our best players, but she said it's for personal reasons so we respect her privacy and believe it is only fair that she deals with whatever it is," Donaldson told the Jamaica Observer.

DONALDSON...we would have loved to have everybody onboard, especially our best players, but she said it's for personal reasons so we respect her privacy (Photo: Observer file)

"But, the show must go on. We have to learn to deal with these kinds of situations and just focus on playing and putting our best foot forward. We have to always ensure that we can survive without some of our big players because, again, anything can happen at any given time," he reasoned.

The tactician pointed to the fact that they were able to draft Hayles in short order as testament to the depth of their growing player pool. On that note, he expressed confidence in Hayles' ability to deliver the goods.

The 44th-ranked Reggae Girlz will open the Cup of Nations against number seven-ranked Spain on February 16 before facing 28th-ranked Czech Republic on February 19, and will close off against 12th-ranked hosts Australia on February 22.

"That's why we try to get the player pool as deep as possible so we can replace players for whatever reason. And the team has to continue growing regardless, so we will work around this situation as we build to the World Cup," said Donaldson.

"She [Hayles] is a good player and she has been scoring goals for her club so we are hoping she will score some goals for us. Her movements off the ball is not bad so we are looking forward to her holding the ball up and, of course, causing the opponent worry about her being a threat," he noted.

With the final squad for the July 20 to August 20 World Cup due in a couple of months, Donaldson again urged players to make the most of each opportunity to impress the technical staff.

The Girlz are drawn in Group F alongside France and Brazil, with their third opponent for the global showpiece to come from next month's intercontinental play-offs.

"This also represents an opportunity for her to come in and show what she can do. We want players coming in to say, 'Here is an opportunity to break into the World Cup squad; I'm going to take it.' That's the kind of attitude we are looking forward to," he ended.

Sherdon Cowan

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