Sunshine Girls swap - Aiken replaces unavailable Fowler for England series
Jamaica’s Sunshine Girls have been dealt a major blow, with reports that star goal shooter Jhaniele Fowler will not be available for the upcoming three-Test series against England in December.
Efforts yesterday to secure confirmation from Netball Jamaica president Tricia Robinson were unsuccessful, but head coach Connie Francis, who could not comment on the news concerning Fowler’s unavailability, told The Gleaner that veteran shooter Romelda Aiken will be added to the 12-member squad.
According to a well-placed source, Fowler has written to Netball Jamaica advising them that due to personal reasons, she will not be available for the series, which will be played at the Copper Box Arena in London from December 1-6.
Fowler, 31, currently represents West Coast Fever in the Suncorp Super League in Australia, where she is the competition’s league goalscorer. She is also the leading candidate for the Most Valuable Player award this season.
Francis, meanwhile, is expecting a strong contribution from Aiken, who also plies her trade in the Suncorp Super League with the Queensland Firebirds.
“Romelda will be a part of the squad for the series, but I am not sure about any other shooter that plays overseas,” said Francis. “She (Aiken) is always a part of the plans but it is just that you have to rotate and I think it is her time now and I think that she has been doing extremely well overseas.”
The last time Aiken, 31, represented the country was at last year’s Netball World Cup in Liverpool, England.
“I think that it is only fair for the selectors to have her in the final 12. I am positive that she will be there and I like what I see when she is playing overseas for her club, which is good,” said Francis.
Meanwhile, veteran local coach Christopher Campbell pointed out that the absence of Fowler and the return of Aiken underline the strength and depth of the Sunshine Girls squad.
“I wouldn’t say it is a massive blow for us because you always want your best players and to take your best soldiers to battle,” said Campbell. “But if it is that she (Fowler) is unavailable, then I think that we have enough talent that we can pull from, given the cycle that we are in at this point because the World Championships is three years away.”
“Romelda Aiken is a quality player and so it is good to have these players in the squad to be part of the selection process once she is available for this upcoming tour,” Campbell added.
Top-ranked Fowler has scored 910 goals to second-placed Aiken’s 583 so far this season in the Suncorp Super League. Of note, Aiken has logged 110 offensive rebounds to Fowler’s 66.