Leighton Levy, Gleaner Writer
President of Netball Jamaica, Marva Bernard, is not happy that netball has been once again snubbed for the upcoming RJR Sports Foundation's National Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year awards set for January 10, 2014.
Netball Jamaica nominated three of their best players - Jhanielle Fowler, Romelda Aitken, and Thristina Harwood - and none wasconsidered for any of the categories. The female nominees for Sportswoman of the Year are boxer Alicia Ashley, swimmer Alia Atkinson, sprinter Shelly-Ann Frazer-Pryce and cricketer Stafanie Taylor.
Fowler, in her rookie season in the ANZ Netball League, the most highly rated league in the world, swept the awards being named MVP and Best Newcomer. She also broke the record for number of goals scored in a single season. All three women were also key members of the recent Fast Five Tournament held in Auckland, New Zealand, where Jamaica finished third, and Harwood named MVP of the Tournament.
However, their performances counted for nothing as Mike Fennell, chairman of the selection committee explained in part saying that while the performances of the netballers, Fowler, in particular, were outstanding, it was difficult to select a player who played team sports where it was not easy to distinguish themselves. An argument was also being made by others on the selection panel that the ANZ is not a global championship and Jamaica's third-place finish at the Fast Five was not a medal position.
a slap in the face
For Bernard, it was slap in the face for, perhaps, Jamaica's most successful sports team that continues to be ranked among the top four in the world.
"I am learning to be much calmer and have infinite patience that one day, netball will get the recognition it deserves," said a bristling Bernard, who, only moments before, was remonstrating to other attendees including Molly Rhone, president of the International Netball Federation about how netballers continue to be slighted.
The athletes being considered for the People's Choice Award, where the winner will be determined by public input from Jamaicans here and abroad, include footballer Jermaine Anderson, quarter-miler Javon Francis, jockey Dane Nelson, female footballer Khadijah Shaw and sprint hurdler Yanique Thompson.
Bernard said it hurt that none of the players rated among the best in the world was even considered for this category. "It stings because I understand that we didn't qualify for the Sportswoman of the Year award, but I cannot allow this to defeat the work of Netball Jamaica or the enthusiasm that we have. I see where people are recognising glaring omissions and two questions were asked about it," she said. "I was very disappointed, but happy that we submitted three names for the category awards. We thought Thristina Harwood ought to have been even among the People's Choice nominees."