Tue | Jun 18, 2019

Dalton Myers | Shine, Sunshine Girls, shine!

Published:Saturday | May 25, 2019 | 12:20 AM
Members of Jamaica’s national senior women’s netball team, the Sunshine Girls, huddle during a match against England in the Sunshine Series last year at the National Indoor Sports Centre.

The next few weeks are shaping up to be very exciting for sports fans in the Caribbean, especially Team Jamaica. There’s the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup, and the FIFA Women’s World Cup both starting within the next two weeks. In July, there’s the INF Netball World Cup, while later that month, the Pan Am Games get going in Lima, Peru, where Jamaica already have qualifiers in a record 16 disciplines.

Liverpool, England, will host the 15th Netball World Cup, and Netball Jamaica has announced the Sunshine Girls who have been selected to represent the country. The third-ranked netball nation will be trying to better their third-place finish at the 1991, 2003 (in Kingston, Jamaica) and 2007 editions, but to do so, they will have to be on their best against the other top nations, including a New Zealand still reeling from a poor 2018 Commonwealth Games performance.

I congratulate all the players who have been selected. For the most part, the selection panel got it right. Of the 12 players, seven (Romelda Aiken, Jodi-Ann Ward, Stacian Facey, Shamera Sterling, Khadie-Ann Dehaney, Shimona Nelson and Jhaniele Fowler-Reid) currently play professional netball overseas, while three (Vangelee Williams, Nicole Dixon and Shanice Beckford) have previously plied their trade in England. There is experience in the squad, and a lot will depend on ace goal shooters Fowler-Reid and Aiken. Aiken, who has approximately 78 caps, is the most experienced on the team. In defence, the Girls will depend heavily on Adelaide Thunderbirds’ Sterling, who will combine with Williams, Ward, Dehaney and Facey.

I say “for the most part” because I have a couple of concerns. First, the decision to go with three goal shooters and one specialist goal attack is problematic. It means at least one will get very little game time, especially with us having the two best shooters in the world. Instead of three shooters, we could have gone with another specialist goal attack. We have tried putting Aiken at goal attack before, and that wasn’t effective, so I am assuming the backup is now Nicole Dixon, who plays centre or wing attack?

HEMMINGS’ ABILITY

Secondly, I think Shadian Hemmings would have been a good fit for this team. Hemmings is sometimes considered a handful to deal with, but that, to me, is also what makes her special on the court. She is a versatile mid-court player, who can play goal defence centre or goal attack. She may not be fully fit now, but with the games a couple months away, that could be worked on, and with her agility in defence, she could be very effective.

Overall, I think this is a good team that can do wonders at the World Cup. I am also thrilled to see that Netball Jamaica has so far stayed clear of controversies leading up to this tournament. It is now all about managing the team leading up to and during the competition. Remember, the majority of the players selected are currently overseas, so coach Marvette Anderson and her management team will need to find ways to integrate the two sets of players as quickly as possible. My advice to Netball Jamaica is to also find more ways to introduce the players to the general public. Funding is forever challenging, but you get the sense that average Jamaicans want to be able to support more. However, to support, they need to be able to identify with these athletes. Having more promotions through social media and mainstream media are options.

There are at least two new members on the Netball Jamaica board; I am also told that more changes are coming at the top. So with new persons, we should have new and innovative ideas to drive the Sunshine Girls brand. I know it is not easy, but netball is starting to become a viable profession, and our girls can benefit from the opportunities available.

I wish our netballers all the best in Liverpool. They are an amazing set of players and deserve our support financially and otherwise. I hope they will continue building on the platform set at the 2018 Fast5 Competition and Commonwealth Games. It is always surprising to see how well they perform with the little support they get locally.

- Dalton Myers is a sports consultant and administrator. Email feedback to daltonsmyers@gmail.com or tweet @daltonsmyers.