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‘Time for business’

CONNIE Francis, head coach of Jamaica’s senior netball team, says the Sunshine Girls are upbeat and ready to take to the court for this month’s three-match Vitality Netball International Series against hosts England.

The team is set to depart the shores of Jamaica on Thursday.

The first contest is set for January 11 at the AO Arena in Manchester, while the second and third matches are set for the Copperbox Arena in London on January 14 and 15. The Sunshine Girls are ranked fourth in the world while England are rated third, behind number one Australia and world champions New Zealand.

“The feeling right now is no different from other camps — you know, we have some youngsters who are adjusting well. It’s just your average camp; nothing out of the ordinary. The camp is about gelling and the girls are gelling together — which is important,” Francis said.

“Everybody spent Christmas with their families — the usual Jamaican Christmas — and it was good. And now is the time for business, and we are feeling good and ready to go. Training has been going well, and everything has been going well with the girls so far,” Francis added.

The Jamaicans will be led in the series by ace goal shooter and Captain Jhaniele Fowler along with Vice-Captain Shanice Beckford, Shimona Nelson, Rebekah Robinson, Khadijah Williams, Nicole Dixon-Rocherster, Jodi-Ann Ward, and Kadie-Ann Dehaney, who all participated at this year’s Commonwealth Games. Malysha Kelly, one of the most experienced defenders, also makes a return.

The squad will be without top-rated defenders Shameera Sterling and Latanya Wilson, plus centre Adean Thomas, who all played a very vital role in helping the country secure the historic silver medal at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England, in August 2022.

The other members of Jamaica’s team are Tafiya Hunter, Crystal Plummer, Abigale Sutherland, Theresa Beckford, and Roxonna McLean.

“As I previously stated, it is a nice group of players to work with — both senior players and young junior players with rookies in it — and it contributes significantly to Jamaica netball’s future,” Francis told the Jamaica Observer.

The Netball World Cup 2023 will take place in Cape Town, South Africa, from July 28 to August 6, and Francis said the Vitality Series forms a crucial part of preparation for final squad selection going into the global showpiece.

“I know that England is missing key players and we are missing three to four key players as well but guess what? This is really an opportunity for the young and new players to step in and give a good account of themselves. You know, just to knock on the door to say, “Hey, I am ready to be a part of the World Cup team,” Francis declared.

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