A total of 72 teams and 32 clubs have registered to participate in the 2018 Barbados Netball Association’s (BNA) domestic season which officially began yesterday afternoon with an opening ceremony and parade at the Wildey Gymnasium.
During her featured address, BNA president Nisha Craigwell said the local netball fraternity deserved to see and experience netball at the highest level, and for this very reason, the BNA created history by hosting its first ever international Test series against the Uganda She Cranes at the Gymnasium.
“Gone are the days where netball was just used as recreation and bragging rights, it is now played professionally in varying leagues across the world. My Bajan Gems deserve the opportunity to be part of a fraternity that earns a living from playing netball and under my presidency this area will get some much-needed attention,” Craigwell said.
Her comments were met with assurances from Barbados Olympic Association general secretary, Erskine Simmons, who said the BOA had recommended a grant of BDS$70, 000 to the BNA this year.
That news by Simmons was welcomed considering Barbados has a busy year of netball on its calendar, starting with the senior team as they prepare to depart on March 27 for the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast of Australia.
Currently ranked 11th in the world, Craigwell praised the senior team, saying: “Our Bajan Gems are a world-class team and have the distinction of being the highest ranked national team in Barbados. To maintain a high international ranking is no easy feat that comes at a cost, not only financially but mentally and physically. Many beloved Gems paid the price dearly, they have made many sacrifices to ensure that our country remains relevant and is easily recognized as a team to beat on the international scene.”
Following the senior ladies outing, the junior Gems are also slated to compete in St Lucia at the Jean-Pierre Under-16 Netball Championship from April 6 to 12.
In July, reigning queens Christ Church Foundation School and Springer Memorial will represent Barbados at the Under-19 Schools Regional Competition in Jamaica.
Barbados for the first time since 2006 will host the Americas Federation of Netball Association Qualifier for Netball World Cup which will take place from August 24 to September 2, 2019, in Liverpool.
According to Craigwell, several countries such as Argentina, United States of America, Canada, Trinidad and Tobago, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, St Marteen, Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada and Bermuda, have all expressed an interest to the local organizing committee chaired by Annette Beckett to participate in the qualifiers.
Craigwell thanked the sponsors for their contribution and encouraged the players to approach each game with optimism and a “can-do attitude”, prove the naysayers wrong and be positive.