Her West Coast Fever side may have been stunned in the preliminary final of Australia’s Suncorp Super Netball on Saturday, but Jamaican goal shooter Jhaniele Fowler is confident her national team will not suffer the same fate at the Netball World Cup 2023 in Cape Town.
After an impressive showing at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games where they finished with silver, the 33-year-old captain of the side is convinced that the Jamaicans are set for glory at the global showpiece which gets under way in South Africa on 28 July.
“Our chances are very good for winning the World Cup. I am definitely going for gold, my team wants gold and we want to bring gold back to Jamaica,” said a resolute Fowler, who will be playing in her fourth Netball World Cup.
“Our Commonwealth Games last year was definitely a highlight for me,” she said of the tournament in which the Jamaicans beat eventual champions Australia in the pool stages.
“But in keeping that momentum going forward I just think we need to continue to stay focused, do what we did at the Commonwealth Games but we’re going to do it a little better in the World Cup by making sure that we’re sticking together, that we are unified, and that we’re working as a team.
“We need to make sure that we manage ourselves properly and manage our mindset, making sure that we’re strong going into the World Cup.”
Jamaica have competed in every edition of the tournament since its inception in 1963 with a best result of third place on three occasions – including when they hosted the event in 2003.
But Fowler believes the Sunshine Girls are now better equipped to beat the likes of defending champions New Zealand and the top-ranked Australian side.
“I reckon it’s just the experience that we gained over the years playing in the Suncorp Super Netball and also for other players who have been playing around the world,” she explained.
“It’s just the fact that we’ve had players going out and gaining the knowledge and understanding of how to play against teams such as Australia and New Zealand and hold up against them, and ensuring that we can go over the line.”
Fowler couldn’t have dreamt of Netball World Cup glory as a youngster. Growing up in Montego Bay, she was diagnosed with rheumatic heart disease when she was seven years old.
Having been in and out of hospital, she never let the disease hold her back, however, playing netball for the first time at age 11 and eventually growing to 6ft 5in – certainly an advantage in the shooting circle. Fowler went on to make her debut for Jamaica in 2010 and has evolved into one of the world’s most prolific shooters, claiming numerous accolades along the way. While she still has the disease, she manages it with medication.
Now her daughter is just a couple of years older than Fowler herself was when she took up the sport, and she’s relishing being a netball mom.
“It’s amazing watching my daughter playing netball – she has made me so proud,” she admitted.
“I am so happy to have her with me [in Australia] and just being able to go and sit in the stands and watch her play is just a very overwhelming feeling – to know that I can also be a parent who is sitting and watching my daughter play.
“Hopefully one day she will follow in my footsteps but I’ll leave that to her – if she wants to I’ll support her and if she doesn’t I’ll support her just the same.”
Come the end of the month, it’ll be Fowler’s daughter, Drehannah, who will be doing the supporting, however, as the Sunshine Girls take on the world in Cape Town.
Tickets to watch Jamaica and the other top teams in action at the Cape Town International Convention Centre from 28 July to 6 August are still available. Details on tickets and travel packages and more information are all on the official tournament website (www.nwc2023.org.za) with a range of tickets and packages still available.