The sport of netball suffered significantly in 2021 on account of the ongoing COVID 19 pandemic and, according to president of Netball Jamaica (NJ), has had devastating effect on development in Jamaica.
In fact, no netball competition has been played in Jamaica since the backend of 2019.
The Elite League, the country’s top netball competition, which was due to start in August of last year, was put on hold because of spikes in COVID-19 cases. There is no recovery as yet.
The high-school leagues, which usually tip off in October, were also forced to be postponed because of the pandemic.
The association also suffered a major loss in August when their two Coaster buses, which are used to transport their various national teams to and from training, were stolen from the premises of the Netball House on Barbican Road. While the buses were comprehensively insured, there has also been no recovery here, either.
Those postponements and outright cancellations, along with the theft, has led NJ President Tricia Robinson to describe 2021 as “tough”, but she is hoping that with the Commonwealth Games coming up in July in Birmingham, 2022 will throw up a much better 365 days.
“It was a bittersweet year for us,” said Robinson. “The bitter is that we lost two of our buses which were stolen from our Netball House on Barbican Road in August,” she said. “The sweet thing is that our athletes did extremely well on the international stage, and we closed out the year with a 2-1 series defeat away to England, but I think that despite this loss we didn’t do too badly, because we know what we need to work for this year,” Robinson said.
However, the Sunshine Girls team did manage to play a home series against Caribbean rivals Trinidad and Tobago in October, which they easily won 3-0 at the National Indoor Sports Complex.
They also defeated the Jamaica male national team in a one-off match after the series.
Despite challenging times at home, Sunshine Girls players starred in the Suncorp Super Netball League in Australia, with goal shooter Jhaniele Fowler capturing the Most Valuable Player award for the fourth consecutive year, a league record.
Fowler, along with goalkeeper Shamera Sterling, were named to the Team of the Tournament for the championships. Shooter Romelda Aiken was the top offensive rebounder in the league with 87 grabs, ahead of Fowler. Sterling, with 48 interceptions, topped the chart in that category, while her teammate, Jodi-Ann Ward, ended fourth with 34.
In the boardroom, former Sunshine Girls captain Simone Forbes was elected first vice-president of Netball Jamaica during an annual general meeting in October. Forbes, who is rated as one of the best goal attacks to have ever played for the country, defeated Garth Summerville 42-23.
The position had been vacant since February 2020, after Robinson left the post to become head of the organisation. Karlene Waugh is the new treasurer of NJ, having defeated Winston De La Haye 42-23. Shaneil May with 51 votes; Karen Baugh, 49; Shawn Murdock, 46; and Erica Ebanks, 43, were all voted in as directors.