Dixon-Rochester says Sunshine Girls a work in progress
Jamaica's Nicole Dixon-Rochester (left) and Oprah Douglas of Trinidad and Tobago challenge forpossession during the opening contest of the three-match Sunshine Series at the National Indoor Sport Centre on Saturday, October 16, 2021. Jamaica won 71-22. (Photo: Naphtali Junior)

NETBALLER Nicole Dixon-Rochester believes Jamaica's Sunshine Girls are some way off the level they are aspiring to as they prepare for major tournaments over the next two years.

The fourth-ranked Jamaicans beat the visiting Trinidad and Tobago's Calypso Girls earlier this month, recording 71-22, 64-32 and 73-22 victories in the three-match series sweep at National Indoor Sport Centre.

But stiffer challenges await in the form of hosts England against whom they are scheduled to play three matches next month. While the Calypso Girls are rated number 10 in the world, the Roses are ranked third.

“There are things we have been working on and we had good moments and bad moments where those were concerned,” Dixon-Rochester, 26, said after the series against Trinidad and Tobago.

“There are things we definitely have to go back to the drawing board to work on because going up against other teams, it is going to be more competitive and more physical. There is going to be a need for more ball control and all of that.

“We have to work more on control of the ball — playing with more pace, ball movement and agility. We have to work on when to calm it down and know when to raise the pressure,” the former Holmwood Technical student told the Jamaica Observer.

Dixon-Rochester said competition at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England, next summer and the 2023 Netball World Cup to be staged in Cape Town, South Africa, are very much in the team's focus.

“The series [against T&T] has helped us going into the one against the England Roses to work on things that have been our downfall and things that have been our strength. The Sunshine Girls really appreciate the practice because it will help us in England and looking forward to the Commonwealth Games and the World Cup,” she said.

Dixon-Rochester, who has previously plied her trade professionally in England, plays locally for Manchester Spurs and is one of the Jamaican netballers working her way back to match sharpness after extended inactivity caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The versatile centre, who can also ably fill in at wing attack, was hard-working and lively against the Calypso Girls. She marshalled proceedings in mid-court with her interceptions and incisive releases, quickly transitioning the team from defence to attack. She was especially effective in the second contest, earning the Player of the Match accolade.

“I had not been in competition since January 2020 [at the four-team Nations Cup in England] because the coronavirus came in and wiped everything away. I think I did fairly well, but not all that I wanted. I set myself some mini goals; I accomplished some but some I did not.

“I have been learning to be more physical so it was good getting some international competition so I could practise that. Playing against Trinidad let me know where I am in terms of fitness, reaction and all of that,” Dixon-Rochester explained.

“I know the things I need to work on, things that are working, and things I need to continue to build on. I know my body and I know when I'm at a point at which I'm fit and ready. I have some sort of fitness but I am not close enough to maximum level, as I would want to be. I have more to give; I know I can achieve more in terms of fitness,” she told the Observer.

Dixon-Rochester said the Sunshine Girls' chemistry on-court was also boosted by the T&T visit.

“I think it was very good, and we appreciate the fact that Trinidad were able to make it here,” she said.

“We have netballers playing internationally and we also have players here in Jamaica not getting any competition. So the fact that we had competition [including practice versus a Jamaica men's team] with different styles of playing, it was good for the Sunshine Girls as we look forward to the upcoming tournament against England Roses, as well as the Commonwealth Games.”

The Jamaican women claimed bronze at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia, but could only place fifth at the 2019 World Cup in Liverpool, England.

BY SANJAY MYERS Senior staff reporter myerss@jamaicaobserver.com

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