Match rust
Elite League netball return plagued by substandard quality
Roxanna McLean (left) of St Ann Orchids and Amanda Pinkney (centre) of Kingston Hummingbirds challenge for the ball as Susan Douglas looks on during the 2023 Netball Jamaica Seprod Elite League match at National Indoor Sport Centre on Friday, March 10, 2023. (Photo: Naphtali Junior)

THE COVID-19 pandemic and lack of match practice have been blamed for the substandard quality of play in this year's staging of the Seprod Elite League Netball competition.

The Elite League, the country's top netball competition, restarted on March 10 after a more than three-and-half-year absence due to the novel coronavirus.

Simone Forbes, first vice-president of the Netball Jamaica (NJ), told the Jamaica Observer she is not surprised that the standard of the competition has been below par so far.

"The league has been absent for three years and so all of us in sports understand what that means because we haven't been playing any high-level netball except for the national programme and so we expected the quality to dip — and it did.

FORBES...we expected the quality to dip and it did.

"This is the main reason we decided to go with four teams instead of six because that way we ensure that the level is at least at the version of the Elite League that we are accustomed to. And so could it be better? Of course it could always be better," she said.

The 2023 Elite League which consists of four teams — St Catherine Racers, Manchester Spurs, Kingston Hummingbirds and St Ann Orchids — features the top netball players in Jamaica competing in the eight-week championship.

Forbes, who is a former captain of Jamaica's Sunshine Girls team, pointed out she is very hopeful that as the competition continues the players will raise their game.

"We are hoping that next year it will pick up but I know that COVID is still around. But everything is now back to normal and more netball is being played, more coaching is happening, and so we are hoping that next year the quality will be back, and if not better than what we are accustomed to," she said.

"I have watched the first set of the games and, based on what I am hearing, there have been some improvements with some of the players — and that is what we want to see," Forbes said.

"You will see some difference but I don't know how much difference you will see going forward; and you also have to keep in mind that the coaches have not had the players for a very long time because they only started with them in February," she stated.

Goal attack Shanice Beckford (right) of Manchester Spurs prepares to shoot over goal defence Malysha Kelly (second right) of Kingston Hummingbirds during the 2023 Seprod/Netball Jamaica Elite League match at the National Indoor Sport Centre on Friday, March 17, 2023. (Photo: Collin Reid)

Veteran local coach, Sylvester Campbell said that given the absence of the league for such a long time the competition is at a level he is satisfied with.

"It is not at a high standard but it is not at a poor standard either because the players have been competing very hard and the matches have been very close, and so it is pretty good for me," said Campbell. "Remember that there was no Elite League competition for the past years and so it is going to take some time for the players to group themselves and for the competition to get back to what we are accustomed to," he argued.

BY ROBERT BAILEY Staff reporter

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