National netballers need Nevers
Jamaica's team to netball's World Championships, the Sunshine Girls, has been the fittest, best trained, best fed, best sponsored of all the previous netball teams to any international competition in living memory.
The Girls have a new coach and an overseas technical director (well paid) and a support team par excellence. They left Jamaica with a lot of good wishes and support as they sought to challenge world powerhouse teams Australia and New Zealand for netball's ultimate prize. But first, they have to go through the rounds and qualify for the semi-finals and then the finals.
The Jamaicans are ranked fourth in the world, not an achievement to be sniffed at. However, for far too long we have been sometimes third, most times fourth, in these competitions.
For me, this is unacceptable as I have always felt that the Sunshine Girls, with the talent displayed and their athleticism, deserve to be number one in the world.
FAILURE TO ADJUST TACTICS
Our failure lies in the inability of the team to adjust tactics during a game based on the strength and weaknesses of an opponent. This can only be done by the coaching staff.
In a preliminary game against England last week, we at home witnessed the 'same old, same old' result. Jamaica going off to a blistering start, mesmerising our opponents, leading fairly comfortably, then came failure to adjust tactics, thus an eventual defeat.
As a result of that defeat, our Sunshine Girls (who beat Scotland and qualified for the quarter-finals) can still go on to win and confound those who see New Zealand as the best team on show, but in reality, our chances now are much slimmer than when the Girls left Jamaica.
What this country needs is coaching by tried and proven experts, who just happen to be available locally!
The blatant and barefaced determination of netball hierarchy to refuse to give 'guru' Winston Nevers full control of the programme will continue to be our lone obstacle in the quest to be the best in international netball.
Every year, every competition, it is the same thing - we play well against Caribbean neighbours, beat the rest of the competition ranked fifth to wherever, lead in our matches against the top-three teams in the world, they adjust their tactics, we don't, then we crash to a defeat.
In the past, it was easy to blame fitness. Not this time. These are the fittest Girls ever sent away to World Championships. Hopefully, netball leaders realise that when pointing an index finger at a supposed cause of our defeat, at least three fingers are pointing directly at them.
The revelations of "suspicious" doping test results from major athletic competitions by an article that appeared in the Sunday Times of England many days ago have brought the expected howls of protest from the IAAF and other organisations, whose main problem seems to be "a who talk?".
The good news is that the World Anti-Doping Authority has immediately launched an investigation into the allegations that athletes with unusual blood test results seem to be doping with impunity.
Confirmation of doping from blood test results can only be done after comparing results from that same athlete over time, the main reason for an Athlete Biological Passport, which Jamaica started to collect in 2015.
Last Friday, news emerged that Russian female marathoner Lilya Shobukhova, who won the London marathon in 2010 and was runner-up in 2011, had all her results since 2009 annulled because of doping.
This athlete was exposed by the Sunday Times article as having 'extreme blood scores' for nine years before the IAAF took action in 2014, yet the London Marathon organiser who allegedly paid for the tests was not informed until the publication of the Sunday Times article.
London Marathon organisers are now seeking to recover over half a million pounds in prize and appearance money from the disgraced Russian athlete four years after she doped.
Trying to find out "a who talk" is not the answer, but a timely and transparent testing process and results management that ensures cheaters are exposed and those who do not cheat are rewarded.