Fri | Dec 2, 2016

Time for a professional netball league

Published:Friday | January 16, 2015 | 12:01 AM

The Sunshine Girls again demonstrated their resilience when they triumphed over arch-rivals England by winning the three- match contest sponsored by Supreme Ventures.

The senior netballers put on a brilliant show for the sold-out crowds that packed the National Indoor Sports Centre for the three matches. Early assessments are that superb shooting and clinical defending were the key factors which contributed to Jamaica's success.

The teams went into battle Tuesday night tied one all. It was no walkover, though, what it required to clinch the series was a superb performance from the Nicole Aiken-led local team. It also helped that goal shooter Jhaniele Fowler put in an incredible effort to score 28 goals from 34 attempts. Fans were treated to a riveting display.

Last year, the Jamaicans also asserted their dominance over England to snatch the bronze medal in the Commonwealth Games in Glasglow, Scotland. This latest series would have given the teams an opportunity to size up each other ahead of the World Netball Championship to be staged in Sydney, Australia, in August.

Australia and New Zealand are the dominant teams in the sport while Jamaica is ranked at number four behind England. By winning this series, Jamaica's Sunshine Girls are taking the right strides towards the championship in August. And the local fans are expectant that the team will bring them more joy and greater thrills.

Netball is the number-one women's sport in Jamaica and, with such consistently good performances, it is puzzling why there is not more commercial support for the Sunshine Girls. The governing body of the sport, the Jamaica Netball Association, has often had to go on fundraising blitzes to finance the team's campaigns.

It would be great if this series win could motivate more sponsors to get behind the team, which has done so much to raise Jamaica's profile in the international arena. Sponsorship is vital in creating the environment for a team to achieve success and growth.

At the same time, Jamaica owes a debt of gratitude to the army of persons involved in netball administration, many of whom are volunteers. They do what they do simply because they are committed to the sport and want to help young women realise their full potential. By enabling these women to grow, they are also opening the door for others to enter and reap honour for themselves and their country.

BIGGING UP OUR ATHLETES

Our netballers work as hard as other professional sportspeople, perhaps harder, and they have been more successful than most, yet netball's profile is pretty low compared to say, football.

Given the current performance of the team, an investment in netball is likely to yield a better return than in football. It is no ordinary feat for the netballers to be ranked among the top in the world.

With our netballers consistently producing match-winning performances, it must be time to settle the question of developing professional leagues where these athletes are paid a wage instead of having to juggle work, sometimes school, and other duties, along with getting match practice in preparation for competition. And where are the endorsements for our netballers?

The idea of developing professional netball leagues is a conversation that needs to get started with sports administrators, teams, as well as potential commercial partners.