‘Best we have ever done’
Fowler takes heart in historic silver for Sunshine Girls
STAR GOAL shooter Jhaniele Fowler highlighted how much the past week has meant to Jamaican netball though the Sunshine Girls’ magnificent run to a first-ever Commonwealth Games final ended in a 55-51 defeat to Australia.
After a historic and unblemished run to the major medal decider, including an unprecedented Games win over Australia in qualifying and New Zealand in the semi-final, plus a record 103-24 victory over Barbados, Jamaica struggled to exert authority in their second meeting with the side ranked number one in the World and trailed throughout most of an absorbing final played amid an electric atmosphere.
Despite Thursday’s success against the Aussies, few had Jamaica anything but underdogs, which fuelled fervent support for the black, green, and golds from a capacity audience at the NEC Arena in Birmingham.
Fowler, the competition’s leading goal scorer, reflected:
“We are so indebted to the crowd for coming out and supporting us the way they did – it was so humbling – and we felt we put on a good performance without quite making it over the line this time.
“This has done so much to move us forward and, hopefully, will result in new sponsors coming along to push us even further forward.
“We have done the best we have ever done, and although we are still hungry for more, we are happy to have finished second.
“I reckon we let ourselves down in the third quarter when we let them in and have a run (of goals).
“Last time we were able to rein them in when they had a run but weren’t able to do that tonight.
“My lasting memory was beating Australia (in the qualifying pool), which we did with comparatively few resources.”
Australia, who finished with an enormous 501 goals for the tournament, never looked likely to have a repeat of the anguish of four years ago, when on home soil in Gold Coast, they lost the final to England on the final play.
Nor could Jamaica replicate their historic 57-55 success three days beforehand.
The formidable Diamonds, in their seventh consecutive final and already with three previous gold medals to their name, held a controlling hand from the outset.
Such was the competitiveness, it was almost a minute before Australia scored the first goal as a nerve-racking but compelling opening period unfolded.
Repeatedly, the Diamonds tried to pull away, only for the fired-up – and occasionally overpassionate Sushine Girls, with five players regulars in Australia’s Suncorp Super League – to close the deficit.
But the Aussies, looking more composed, eased out to an early 13-7 lead.
The deafening cheers were all for Jamaican success, and it was back to 14-12 when a pulsating first quarter was brought to a close.
With the imposing figure of Fowler dominating the circle, as she had all week, Jamaica edged into the lead, for the first and only time, midway through the second quarter and briefly held a 22-18 advantage.
Half-time arrived with the sides locked at 29 each.
Australia emerged from the longer break with renewed intent, and in the blink of an eye, Jamaica were twice staring down the barrel of a nine-point deficit.
Again, they rallied to close to within six (45-39) with one quarter remaining then sparked a few Aussie nerves at 48-45 during the closing quarter.
But as the clock ticked down, Australia’s composure began to outshine the sheer effort and increasing desperation shown by Jamaica, leading to them claiming the 1000th gold medal in Commonwealth Games history.
Fowler finished with 46 goals from 47 attempts while Shanice Beckford claimed the other five goals for the Sunshine Girls.