AS the curtain closes on another Commonwealth Games, we take a look back at how each of the netballing nations fared in our team-by-team review series. Next up is Jamaica, who recorded its best finish in nation history, rising above their previous best of Bronze at a Commonwealth Games or World Cup, to secure Silver in a memorable tournament.
GAMES AT A GANDER
Jamaica came into the Commonwealth Games as a nation expected to reach the semi-finals. A regulation 29-goal win over Wales kicked off that campaign on the opening day, before stamping their authority with a 19-goal win over fellow top five nation, South Africa. That all but locked in the Sunshine Girls’ semi-finals spot as they came out from a rest day with a 103-24 shellacking of Barbados, recording the highest individual score of the tournament, as well as the largest winning margin (79 goals). A 44-goal win over Scotland officially secured Jamaica’s semi-final spot, but first the Sunshine Girls had to face off against Australia. Despite the world number ones leading for the most part, Jamaica hit back hard to run over the top of the Diamonds and win by two goals to top the group. They took care of the Silver Ferns in an impressive 16-goal semi-final victory to reach the Gold Medal Match for the first time. Unfortunately for the Sunshine Girls, this time it was not to be, as they fought hard but ultimately fell short by four goals, 51-55 but still accepted the Silver Medal after a brilliant campaign.
It is impossible to look past the elite bookends of the court, power shooter Jhaniele Fowler and goal keeper Shamera Sterling. While the Jamaicans have plenty of impressive performers, these two just got it done time and time again. Fowler shot 273 goals from 281 attempts, pulled down nine rebounds and had four deflections, one intercept and eight goal assists. Sterling recorded a massive 27 intercepts, 28 deflections and eight rebounds to be a headache for opposition goalers. The other standouts shared the defensive end with Sterling in Latanya Wilson (nine intercepts, 38 deflections and seven rebounds) and Jodi-Ann Ward (seven intercepts, 22 deflections), and made it incredibly difficult for any side to penetrate the Sunshine Girls defensive zone too easily.
Having been in and around high-level netball for a while now, it is easy to forget that Wilson is only 21-years-old. The defender is a tenacious one who draws a lot of penalties, but certainly puts it all out on the court. Much like Shimona Nelson (23 years-old), she has impressed at a young age and has plenty of expectations on her shoulders. Nelson scored 137 goals from 141 attempts, six rebounds and two deflections in the tournament and would have been a starter in most other sides. All the other Jamaican players are 25 or older with Kadie-Ann Dehaney and Sterling set to form a long-term partnership in that defensive end, while Nicole Dixon-Rochester and Shanice Beckford created points of difference in the midcourt in an area that has long been Jamaica’s Achilles heel.
Jamaica would come away from the Commonwealth Games ecstatic with the result. The Sunshine Girls would have been disappointed initially with the loss to the Diamonds, but in hindsight, it is hard not to admire what Jamaica was able to achieve against the ‘Big Three’, defeating two of them and almost winning a third match and a Gold Medal.