Jamaica: GS Jhaniele Fowler-Reid (Captain), GA Shanice Beckford, WA Nicole Dixon, C Paula Thompson, WD Vangelee Williams, GD Stacian Facey, GK Shamera Sterling.
Bench: Romelda Aiken, Rebekah Robinson, Adean Thomas, Jodi-Ann Ward, Khadijah Williams.
Coach: Marvette Anderson
Barbados: GS Shonica Wharton, GA Latonia Blackman, WA Vanessa Bob, C Rieah Holder, WD Teresa Howell, GD Rhe-Ann Niles-Mapp (Captain), GK Shonette Azore-Bruce.
Bench: Damisha Croney, Sabreena Smith, Shonte Seal, Tonisha Rock-Yaw, Nikita Payne.
Coach: Sandra Bruce-Small
Umpires: Maria van der Merwe (RSA), Marc Henning (AUS), Gary Burgess (ENG)
Tonight’s game lacked the usual flair that Jamaica and Barbados, are known for. There was little urgency by either team until the last quarter, in a match that was strangely flat for one of netball’s pinnacle events. Were the Jamaicans perhaps looking ahead to a rest day and their big match against Australia? Were the Bhajans perhaps rotating tired bodies ahead of a potentially winnable match against Northern Ireland? Even the Caribbean supporters, who are usually so colourful in support of their teams, were quiet.
As expected it was a difficult task for the Bhajans, who lack match practise on the international stage. In contrast Jamaica have seven players who have plied their trade in Australia, New Zealand or English leagues, gaining valuable experience.
Jhaniele Fowler-Reid started the game at goal shooter, and uncharacteristically missed her first two goals. However, it was the only quiet patch for either Fowler-Reid or Romelda Aiken, who took the court in the third quarter. Shonette Azore-Bruce, the heavily strapped keeper for Barbados, battled mightily and contested well in the air, but was reduced to pounding the floor in frustration as most balls sailed over her head.
Barbados tried to keep their passing short and flat to reduce damage inflicted on them by the aerial skills of Jamaican defenders. It didn’t deter the Jamaicans, who took 13 intercepts and 20 deflections across the match. While all the team chimed in, Nicole Dixon and Shamera Sterling created the most opportunities, with 4 intercepts/2 deflections and 3 intercepts/2 deflections respectively. Beckford in particular has developed over the past year, using phenomenally quick footwork to dance around her opponents and challenge the pass into the circle.
At the opposite end of the court, Barbados were well served by the experienced Latonia Blackman, who rotated between goal shooter and goal attack. Blackman is playing at her sixth Commonwealth Games, a record for any netballer. Originally a defender, she’s played every position on the court before moving into goals in her latter years. In this game she was supported by Shonica Wharton and Nikita Payne, although both struggled for accuracy at times due to the intimidating defence of Sterling, Stacian Facey, Jodi-Ann Ward and Vangelee Williams.
As the game progressed, the Bhajans made concerted efforts to slow the pace of their game and play patient netball. When they were able to, they progressed through to goal more effectively, but far too often were frustrated by poor pass selection.
In the third quarter Sterling copped a heavy blow to her right leg, sending a scare through the Jamaican camp. She recovered quickly, and while she managed to play on will be looking forward to tomorrow’s rest day.
There were moments of humour in the game, such as when Aiken fell over the baseline, hugging umpire Marc Henning who was in her line of fall.
As the game moved into it’s final stages, and the players developed greater urgency, the crowd started to come to life. The Jamaicans continued to haul more intercepts in, streaming down court to goals.
While the final margin appeared to be a convincing win, it wasn’t the Jamaican’s best performance. There is little doubt that they will produce a far more intense performance on Wednesday when they take on Australia. Barbados still have games to play against South Africa and Northern Ireland, and will pencil in the latter as a winnable one.
FINAL SCORE: Jamaica defeated Barbados 76 – 32
Jamaica: Jhaniele Fowler-Reid 32/36 (89%), Shanice Beckford 12/14 (86%), Romelda Aiken 28/33 (85%), Rebekah Robinson 4/8 (50%)
Barbados: Shonica Wharton 9/12 (75%), Latonia Blackman 17/19 (89%), Nikita Payne 6/9 (67%)
WHAT THEY SAID AFTER THE GAME:
Shamera Sterling (Jamaica):
You’ve improved over the last year: “I’ve been working with the Sunshine Girls for quite a long time. We have a good defence group, I’m learning different skills while working with the girls and also playing in Superleague (in England).”
Did winning the Taini Jamison series against New Zealand give you confidence? “Yes, huge confidence, having our name engraved on that trophy was quite exciting.”
Sasher-Gaye Henry (coach, Jamaica)
Did the Taini Jamison series give you confidence coming into the Commonwealth Games? “It definitely did. You come to the Commonwealth Games and you need the match practice.”
How did you settle on your starting line? “We saw what we wanted, and we had a good steady seven and rotations available.”
How would you rate your team’s performance tonight? “I would give them 6 to 6 ½ out of 10.”
What areas will you be looking to improve on? “We will definitely be looking to improve on our shooting, we have to make our shots, and also our transition down court to them.”
How are the players looking forward to playing Australia in Australia? “It’s a great opportunity, we haven’t played them in a while. We’re quite excited, it will be a tough one, and we will have to work hard. We’re glad we had that rocky road today, but we will have to sharpen up.”
Sandra Bruce-Small (Barbados coach)
We knew it was going to be a huge challenge playing against Jamaica. We were a little disappointed, we could have taken more care in terms of taking care of our shooters and working the ball to them. But you can’t take it away from Jamaica, they played well.”
What did you tell your girls at half time? “We said we have nothing to lose, play for pride, I assured them that I know we can do better.”
It’s remarkable that Latonia Blackman is playing in her sixth Commonwealth Games. “She made the Barbados team when she was 16, and it’s a remarkable achievement for her. She has played every position for Barbados.”