Tue | Nov 28, 2023

‘This team has it in them’

Francis optimistic after Netball World Cup squad reveal

Published:Wednesday | June 7, 2023 | 12:28 AM
Jamaica’s Sunshine Girls celebrate a historic victory over Australia at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England last year.
Jamaica’s Sunshine Girls celebrate a historic victory over Australia at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England last year.
Sunshine Girls coach Connie Francis.
Sunshine Girls coach Connie Francis.

Daniel Wheeler/Staff Reporter

FROM THEIR milestone performance at last year’s Commonwealth Games and the reconstructive work from last cycle’s disappointing campaign, national senior netball head coach, Connie Francis, is banking on her team to end a decade-long wait for a podium finish at the Netball World Cup as her 15-player squad was unveiled yesterday.

Among the notable inclusions, Romelda Aiken-George makes her major championship return, having not been at last year’s Commonwealth Games as she was on maternity leave. George last played for the Sunshine Girls in their Fast Five series last year and in her 2023 campaign in Australia. She leads the Suncorp Super Netball League in offensive rebounds for the New South Wales Swifts. Shamera Sterling gets her first national call-up since the Commonwealth Games last year and Crystal Plummer will make her World Cup debut.

What has Francis encouraged by her selections is not just the work of the locally based contingent and the strong form of their Australia league-based counterparts, but the understanding of a group that has been together for a while and the understanding of what is necessary to achieve excellence in the wake of last campaign’s disappointing fifth-place finish.

“What I like about the squad is that they have been around a very long time. So they know what it is like to go to a World Cup. They have it in them, and this team has it in them, not only them as well but with the support staff behind and the belief within the team that they, we have been knocking a long time,” Francis told The Gleaner.

“We showed at the Commonwealth Games that we are contenders. We have never won a gold and in order to win gold, we have to go through two of the Gold medal teams.”

It has been 16 years since Jamaica last stood on the podium, finishing third in 2007. This cycle, Francis said, watching the preparations, she has seen her team come of age. Of course, this vision was boosted by their Commonwealth Games silver.

“These girls have shown the growth and the maturity in how we would like them to play and the Commonwealth Games was a testament to the type of quality netball that we are capable of playing. They have raised the bar, especially the women in Australia. They are doing extremely well. They are on top of their game every week,” Francis said.

“The ones here in Jamaica have stepped up their game. They are committed to the gruelling task. The team camaraderie is so high, people pushing the next one to do extremely well. I know that there is a lot of disappointment when it comes to players not making the cut.”

Supported by her backroom staff, which includes assistant coach Shawn Murdock and specialist coach Rob Wright, Francis believes now they are more than ready to end the long wait for a medal.


Netball World Cup squad

ShootersRomelda Aiken-GeorgeShanice BeckfordJhaniele FowlerShimona NelsonRebekah RobinsonCentre CourtNicole Dixon-RochesterCrystal PlummerAbigale SutherlandAdean ThomasKhadijah Williams

DefendersKadie-Ann DehaneyKimone ShawShamera SterlingJodi-Ann WardLatanya Wilson