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Late netball boss Avril Crawford hailed as a resourceful leader

Senior staff reporter

Saturday, January 02, 2021

FORMER president of Jamaica's netball association Avril Crawford, who passed away at age 77 on Wednesday, was hailed as a resourceful leader with a meticulous eye for detail.

“Avril was a very hard worker and somebody who paid attention to detail. If we missed something we knew that Avril would catch it,” Crawford's predecessor and long-time colleague Vilma McDonald told the Jamaica Observer on Thursday.

“She did what had to be done to get teams ready for competition. In those days it was difficult to raise money, but she was able to raise money to send teams to the world championships — there were three of them during her tenure,” McDonald, who was Jamaica's netball boss between 1982 and 1983, said.

The Observer has learnt that Crawford underwent surgery only recently.

For decades Crawford was involved in the sport as player and administrator. She was McDonald's vice-president before taking over the top spot, which she held until 1993.

One of Crawford's proud moments was overseeing Jamaica's third-place finish at the 1991 World Netball Championship behind winners Australia and runners-up New Zealand.

“I had no difficulty handing over to Avril. She led [well] and she was able to keep her [executive] team together and she was able to keep netball alive for 10 years, and kept growing netball,” McDonald noted.

Crawford was the first elected vice-president of the Americas Federation of Netball Associations (AFNA), when the regional body was established in 1992. She was also elected vice-president of the world netball governing body in 1993.

In a statement Netball Jamaica, which is currently led by Tricia Robinson, described Crawford as “a dedicated servant of the sport, investing her time and energy in its growth and expansion” throughout the country.

Former International Netball Federation (INF) boss Molly Rhone, who headed the national association immediately after Crawford's tenure, said Crawford had a deep-seated love for the sport.

“I worked with her when she was president for a couple of years. I would say she was easy-going, but she took the association through some troubled times. There were not a lot of sponsors at the time…but she worked well with what she had,” Rhone told the Observer.

“She really gave a lot of her time and talent to netball though, unfortunately, she didn't operate with a lot of financial resources. She was very devoted to the game, and she was somebody who could appreciate your views,” the veteran netball administrator added.

Marva Bernard, the head of AFNA, said Crawford's death has left a void.

“My condolence to the family and to those players, and to all others who are missing her today. We have lost a giant in netball. Avril's attention to detail was what was amazing for me; it's the joy of knowing that I got to work with this giant,” she said.

Bernard, also an ex-president of Netball Jamaica, noted that Crawford paved the way for others to follow.

“I recognise that any success I had as president could only be because I stood on the shoulders of past presidents, and Avril Crawford was one of them.

“When I look back on the performance of the teams when Avril was president and what we are experiencing now, it's a legacy of hard work and planning that has enabled us to pass on the baton of success. During her tenure the team came third in the world in 1991 and had many other successes,” she told the Observer.