The Jamaican Sunshine girls opened their Netball World Cup campaign with their usual exuberance, efficiently defeating the Fijian Pearls 85 to 29.
Australian fans would have been comforted to see Romelda Aiken get the start for Jamaica, albeit with a compression stocking on her left calf. Her connection with goal attack Shanice Beckford took a little time to grow during the first term, but when it was on, they were near unstoppable.
Despite the crowd giving Shamera Sterling a rousing welcome onto court, it was her defensive partner, Vangelee Williams, who had the most impact in their third of the court during the first. Williams was impressive across all the key stats, collecting three gains, two intercepts and two deflections while only conceding three penalties for the term.
Speaking after the game, Williams was humble in accepting praise for her performance. “My team count on me for intercepts, so when I can’t give them any I really feel bad. So when I’m preparing in my room, preparing for the game, I’m visualising what I can do and how I can win balls, so that is always my aim as a defender, get interception, get deflection. I was working with my centre, and I was even calling my goal defence as well, so it was like a full team defence.”
Regardless of the pressures being applied by the Sunshine Girls, the Pearls still showed moments of brilliance in their shooting circle. Goal shooter Matila Vocea was using her body well to draw the defenders to circle edge which effectively set a screen for goal attack, Unaisi Rauluni.
The passes over the top from Fijian midcourters Kaitlyn Fisher and Aliti Toribau were risky but at times they were placed perfectly and taken in strong by the shooters.
The Sunshine Girls opted to make a raft of changes to their line-up at the start of the second quarter. The changes worked well as they pushed the lead out and at times went on impressive goal scoring sprees, the largest of which was 11 goals which went unanswered.
The growing goal difference played havoc with the Pearl feeder’s heads as they began to hold onto the ball too long in attack. Often times their shooters would make nice leads or baseline drives yet not receive the ball.
Speaking after the game, Fijian coach, Vicki Wilson said, “Jamaica did a great job in shutting down all the space and we started to play too narrow.”
By the end of the first half the Sunshine Girls had pushed their lead to 26 goals.
At the start of the third, powerhouse Jhaniele Folwer came into the game. Her impact was immediate, as she seamlessly potted 9/9 within the first five minutes of play.
Toward the end of the quarter Fiji defenders Adi Vakaoca Bolakoro and Kelera Nawani adjusted their positioning and challenged more effectively in the air. On several occasions they got hand to ball but were unable to keep hold of it.
Down the other end Kadie-Ann Dehaney made her World Cup debut picking off easy intercepts and gains.
The last quarter was by far the best from the Pearls as they utilised the full width of the court and made the Jamaican defence spread out.
Despite the thumping, Fiji coach, Vicki Wilson was still pleased with what her side produced. Speaking after the match she said, “The way we started in those first ten minutes was great. There was some good things out there. We still won ball, I think we averaged six gains per quarter, so that was really pleasing. It was tough trying to find space so that finish in the last quarter was good.”
Jamican Sunshine Girls
GS Romelda Aiken
GA Shanice Beckford
WA Khadijah Williams
C Adean Thomas
WD Jodiann Ward
GD Vangelee Williams
GK Shamera Sterling
GS Matila Vocea
GA Unaisi Rauluni
WA Kaitlyn Fisher
C Aliti Toribau
WD Alisi Galo
GD Kelera Nawai
GK Episake Kahatoka
Romelda Aiken 26/36 72.2%
Shanice Beckford 11/13 84.6%
Jhaniele Fowler 33/35 94.3
Rebekah Robinson 15/17 88.2%
Matila Vocea. 4/5. 80%
Unaisi Rauluni. 6/8. 75%
Aliti Toribau. 4/4 100%
Lydia Panapasa 6/9. 66.7%
Laisani Waqa. 9/11 81.8%
Adean Thomas (Jamaica) 3
Vangelee Williams (Jamaica) 2
Nicole Dixon (Jamaica) 2
Shanice Beckford (Jamaica) 16
Khadijah Williams (Jamaica) 16
Unaisi Rauluni (Fiji) 10