Barbados will seek to overshadow the Jamaica Sunshine ladies on court when the two nations meet for an international netball test series at the National Indoor Sports Centre, Jamaica.
Ranked number 12 in the world, the Bajan Gems will need to produce great performances starting next week Friday, May 19, against the Jamaicans currently in fourth position among the world’s best.
As the team geared up for the three games May 19, 21 and 22, head coach Sandra Bruce-Small told Barbados TODAY that apart from being a lot stronger, faster, and fitter, the players had improved on their mental aspect which was one of the areas they normally fell down on.
Once Barbados achieves a successful qualification round, the next step would be to improve their overall game. She touched on what has been publicized in local media before and that was not having the use of an indoor facility with a sprung wooden floor surface, opposed to the asphalt which is what local players are restricted to playing on.
“We have to up our ante once we qualify. We have been working really hard on strength and conditioning because we recognize that our game here in the Caribbean is nowhere near as fast as how it is played internationally.
“One of the setbacks that we do have is not having the use of an indoor surface . . . . And you are not going to put your body all out on the line going for balls on the asphalt. Whereas on the board floor you would be more tempted to go after anything. But we will continue to work on our fitness, strength and speed work in order to compete against the bigger teams,” Bruce-Small said.
Following the tour to Jamaica, Barbados will also have to play Trinidad and Tobago ranked (ninth) and Northern Ireland (11) next month in order to qualify for the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia. The Aussies are the number one netball playing nation in the world.
The last time Barbados’ senior team played was in 2015 at the World Championship, and the task for the 246 ladies this time around will be to secure enough points to either go up in the rankings or maintain their current 12th place standing which would allow them to automatically earn a ticket for the upcoming Games next year.
Barbados currently on a total of 88 points will not only need to do well against fellow Caribbean powerhouses Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, but will definitely need to defeat Northern Ireland currently ranked 11th with 89 points, while at the same time keep an eye on Uganda and Samoa trailing closely behind in 13th and 14th positions on 84 and 83 points respectively.
Teresa Howell will be making her debut with the national team along with Rashida Chase who has been elevated from the Under-21 team while Damisha Croney and Tonisha Rock- Yaw will be returning to national duties.
Captain Rhe-Ann Niles told Barbados TODAY having not played competitive netball for the past two years, it was hard to gauge how they would perform but she did say the squad under the guidance of the management team had been doing all they possibly could to be match-ready.
Niles, who plays defence, explained that whenever Barbados comes up against any Caribbean side, they could always expect a tough showdown.
“We still have some things to work on in terms of being match-fit and cutting out the errors in our game and hopefully we can do that within the next couple weeks.
“What we go into any Caribbean game expecting is usually an aerial game, one that is going to be physically tough. Jamaica usually tends to be taller than we are, so we have to play to our strength, which is keeping the ball low, keeping it flat to the ground and try to outplay them across the floor. That is something we are also trying to work on, trying to get our game to be a little faster and keeping the ball at a level that works to our advantage,” Niles explained.
Niles noted that winning was a process and one could never go up against a top team and just beat them, point in case Jamaica. Therefore she said they needed to focus more on the processes as opposed to the outcome.
“I never really push the outcome of the game, it is more so ensuring that the players are doing their best to stick to the task that they have been given and executing well. I find that if you focus more on the task instead of focusing on the outcome, then chances are you are going to be competitive,” she said.
The team leaves next week Thursday, May 18 and will return Tuesday, May 23.
Full squad: Defenders – Rhe-Ann Niles (captain), Shonette Bruce, Shanice Rock, Tonisha Rock- Yaw
Shooters – Latonia Blackman (vice-captain), Shonica Wharton, Sheniqua Thomas, Rieah Holder,
Center court – Sabreena Smith, Damisha Croney, Rashida Chase, Teresa Howell
Manager, Inspector Fred Clarke; head coach, Sandra Bruce- Small; assistant coaches, Margaret Cutting and Adrian Craigwell; along with trainer Desmond Grant.