Sunshine Girls revel after fighting bitterly for historic silver

BIRMINGHAM, England — They celebrated before, they celebrated after, and they fought bitterly in-between.

Jamaica's Sunshine Girls closed a historic chapter at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games with a silver medal, after going down 51-55 in a physical and intense final inside the NEC Arena last night.

The medal pushed Jamaica's overall tally at the 2022 Games to 15 (6 gold, 6 silver and 3 bronze).

It was Jamaica's first appearance in the final at a major international tournament and now, having experienced the rare air at these dizzying heights, the Jamaicans are determined to secure their stay, after delivering another performance that further cemented their stake among netball's status quo.

"I'm very happy to see what we have achieved. The journey has seen so much up and down but despite that, I thought that the girls gave 110 per cent here tonight. I wish that some of our players were not feeling how they're feeling physically when it comes to nursing injuries but I thought, nevertheless, we did have our opportunities. We made some uncharacteristic turnovers that we're not accustomed to but I'm really proud of the girls," said Coach Connie Francis.

Jamaica goal shoot Jhanielle Fowler (with ball) in an intense battle with Australia goal-defence Joana Weston in the netball final of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games on Sunday. (Photo: Naphtali Junior)

The Jamaicans did not enjoy the best of starts this time around, struggling to move the ball through the centre third and into the offensive circle. And they were forced into several turnovers, with the now-five-time champions forcing a number of turnovers in the early exchanges.

The Australians, who have been to every final since netball was introduced to the Games in 1990, made the most of their opportunities and quickly raced into a 13-7 lead, but the Jamaicans would rally and pull within two points by the time the quarter had ended.

They started the second with a steal and were back on level terms within the first two minutes of the quarter, before taking their first lead 4.5 minutes into the quarter.

The third quarter is perhaps where the girls lost the contest after several turnovers again gave Australia the ascendency, triggering the Jamaicans into one of their best quarters here, with Shamera Sterling and Latanya Wilson leading the comeback effort with some lotion-on-skin type defending that helped the team to a 29-29 half-time score.

But the fairy-tale ending most in the arena were hoping to see was derailed in the third quarter when the Jamaicans suffered five turnovers in quick succession and created for themselves a mountain that in the end proved too steep to climb.

They would eventually battle back to keep the Australians honest but were not able to pull them in enough, with a few controversial calls being made against the Jamaicans by the pair of New Zealand umpires doing little to help the rally.

"I reckon we did fall short in the third quarter and we had to fight to pull it back, but there were some shady calls against us — and I'm not blaming anything, we have to play the game as it is called — but we did our best," shared Captain Jhaniele Fowler.

Fowler ended with 46 goals from 47 attempts, while Australian GA Gretel Bueta logged 37 37 attempts for Australia.

The Jamaican sharpshooter said the determination is to now ensure that they are back in this position at next year's Netball World Cup.

"We know that we have the ability to do it; we just need a lot more to help push us over the line because we definitely are lacking in things. And if Australia, who has everything, can only beat us by four, imagine if we have half of what they have. We will thump them of course!" said Fowler. "We want to experience gold in both the Commonwealth and the World Cup so we'll just go back and push again.

"To be honest, I am happy with the silver medal. We all wanted the gold medal but the silver will do for now."

The Jamaicans had previously won three bronze medals at the Commonwealth Games.

BY ANDRE LOWE Sports content manager

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