Robert Bailey, Gleaner Writer
As the Sunshine Girls prepare to face arch-rivals England in their crucial three-Test series starting on Friday, Maureen Hall, technical director of the Jamaica Netball Association (JNA), has expressed concerns over fitness of the national defenders.
The Jamaicans are ranked third in the world with a rating of 151, two points above the English, who are ranked fourth.
A series victory for the Sunshine Girls will see them extending their advantage over their opponents, but a loss could see England leapfrogging Jamaica into third.
"England will be really looking to regain their number three ranking in the world and so this will be the toughest test since we started last year, and so it will be interesting to see how well the girls measure up," Hall stated.
"I think that the defensive quartet, we have strengths and we have weaknesses, and I think going to England is about how we can manage to play down the weaknesses," said Hall during an interview at the team's 'Sunshine Chateau', 17 Widcombe Road, Barbican, prior to their departure for England on Monday.
"I am not sure if in certain areas of the defence, whether or not we are fit enough to manage three Tests with the same level of intensity," she said.
"I think it's really about the balance and what the coach decides on, because she really has to balance it out as best as possible. I think we have made some progress, but my biggest concern is the level of fitness for the intensity," she reiterated.
Continuing, Hall pointed out that the English will be very difficult to beat, especially playing on their home turf, as she says they have improved significantly over the past couple of years.
"I think that England are very fit and I think England have made tremendous improvements," Hall said. "I have seen them at world tournaments and I have seen them at FastNet, and that's one aspect of their game I think they have improved significantly ... their shooting and their fitness.
"I think going into this tour, the one aspect that they currently have over us is their fitness, but I think our style will pose a challenge for them," Hall reasoned.
The former national coach also noted that the Sunshine Girls have made significant strides since their poor showing at the World Netball Champion-ships in Singapore, where they were beaten by England for the bronze medal. In the last three-Test series against England, the Sunshine Girls defeated their opponents 2-1 on home turf in 2011.
"I think that we are making progress, and I think since then this will really be the tough test for us. I think this will be an indication as to where we are in our development."
The second match in the series will be played on the 24th and the final game will be played two days later.