Team Jamaica touched down in Cape Town this week with one goal in mind – claiming the title at the Netball World Cup 2023 (NWC2023).
Head coach Connie Francis, who competed in an incredible five Netball World Cups as a player, quoted a well-known Jamaican phrase which sums up the mood in camp – “Wi likkle but wi tallawah.” The meaning: We may be small but we are mighty.
The island nation with a population of around 3 million has produced some remarkable results over the years, including being one of the few sides in the world to have beaten 11-time Netball World Cup champions Australia.
Their most recent success was at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games where they got the better of the Aussie Diamonds in the group stage before losing out to the same side in the final, but it was still a first Commonwealth Games silver for the Sunshine Girls.
“We expect the World Cup to be harder than the Comm Games last year and so we have been planning our training sessions around ensuring the ladies are better prepared for the task ahead,” said Francis.
“The real test of whether or not we have kept momentum will show in our performance on court.”
Speaking about getting the better of the Australians, the coach added: “[They have been] a powerhouse in netball from the outset of World Netball where they have been dominant over these 60 years.
“But they have chinks in their armour, and we have broken that dominance from as far back as 1985 – so we do have that history to understand that we can, if we put our shoulders to the wheel.
“They are beatable. We have certainly proved that, and if we intend to be victorious, we are not resting on our laurels… We have also put in the work to be prepared, and we have the mental fortitude – the belief that says we will do it.
“And we must do it if we want to become number one.”
Jamaica have played at every Netball World Cup since the tournament’s inception in 1963 and have claimed three bronze medals – in 1991, 2003 (as hosts) and 2007. At the last tournament in 2019, however, they were beaten by South Africa in the pool stage, eventually finishing in fifth place.
The Jamaicans have once again been drawn in the same pool as the SPAR Proteas, with the two scheduled to go head-to-head on 30th July.
“South Africa is one of the top five countries in the world, so they have been and they always will be a threat to the aspirations of the Sunshine Girls which we must overcome if we are going to become number one in the world,” explained Francis.
“We do not under-rate any team. So, we are focused on being disciplined and giving our very best in that effort particularly because South Africa is at home and there’s always the advantage of playing at home.
“As it stands, we must get by South Africa, and so our first job is to make sure that we are prepared for them – physically, mentally, to ensure that strategies and tactics we have will lead to our success, especially at that very critical stage of the preliminaries.”
The other teams in Pool C are Wales and Sri Lanka. The Sunshine Girls take on the Sri Lankans on 28th July before facing the Welsh Feathers a day later.
Having just arrived in Cape Town for the first Netball World Cup on African soil, Francis reckoned: “South Africa have long been amongst the top-ranked nations in netball. The country hosted the FIFA World Cup and it was believed to be one of the best ever.
“Having the Netball World Cup on the African continent will be great for the sport, the country, the players and of course the people of this nation.
“It is a very exciting time as netball has certainly evolved over the years. “The Sunshine Girls are upbeat and looking forward to showcasing their talents in this great nation.”
Details on tickets and travel packages and more information are all available on the official tournament website (www.nwc2023.org.za) with a range of tickets and packages still available.
Photo by Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images/Netball World Cup