World Cup region preview: Americas

IN the lead-up to the Netball World Cup starting July 12, we are previewing each of the automatic qualifiers individually, and then looking at each region’s qualification path’s to the sport’s highest ranked international tournament. In today’s region preview, we take a look at the Americas, which saw Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados both make it through to the World Cup. Trinidad and Tobago have a rich history at the World Cup, being the third ranked nation across the journey and even shared a title with Australia and New Zealand at home in 1979. Since then they have dropped away which has coincided with the rise of Jamaica, but they still eased through the Americas group qualification, joined by Barbados at the World Cup.

The Americas had a unique region with eight teams vying for two spots, and a clear gap in quality between each side. It was fitting that the final match of the September, 2018 tournament saw the top two sides, already qualified, go head-to-head which resulted in Trinidad and Tobago remaining undefeated following a 65-51 victory. Prior to that, neither side had lost a game, with each subsequent team winning against all the side below them, and normal sporting powerhouses in other codes, Canada, United States of America (USA) and Argentina all finishing in the bottom four below much smaller nations. In their match, the teams were fairly even throughout despite the eventual 14-goal margin, with the teams 15-apiece at quarter time, before the favourites showed their class with 50 goals to 36 after the first break. While New South Wales (NSW) Swifts’ star Samantha Wallace was prominent with 26 goals from 28 attempts, she played in goal attack for the winners, allowing Kalifa McCollin to slot into goal shooter and sink 39 of 41 at 95 per cent. For Barbados, Latonia Blackman did not miss a shot from her 25 attempts in goal shooter, while Nikita Payne (15 from 18) and Brianna Holder (11 from 12) were also accurate in the Barbados line-up.


1st Trinidad and Tobago (7-0, +407)
2nd Barbados (6-1, + 312)
3rd Grenada (5-2, +159)
4th St Vincent & The Grenadines (4-3, +59)
5th Canada (3-4, -31)
6th USA (2-5, -100)
7th St Maarten (1-6, -350)
8th Argentina (0-7, -456)

World Cup previews:

Trinidad and Tobago

Coach: Wesley Gomes
World Ranking: 13
Best Result: equal 1st
Predicted: 9th

All eyes and the hopes of the small Trinidad and Tobago nation will be on Wallace, with the 193cm goaler’s influence set to be the key as to how far Trinidad and Tobago can go. She is enjoying a ripping season thus far in the Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) competition, shooting 365 goals from 387 attempts at an accuracy of 94.3 per cent – remarkably more goals and greater accuracy than both Australian shooters, Caitlin Thwaites (91 per cent) and Caitlin Bassett (89 per cent) in the same competition. The question marks over Trinidad and Tobago remain in regards to the midcourt and whether or not Wallace and partner-in-crime, McCollin to get the looks close to the post. McCollin has been playing in the improving Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) competition for Celtic Dragons, and is capable of playing the goal attack role for Wallace to slot into goal shooter. Naturally if they can get the flow up the court, then the pair can go to work with their height and strength likely to trouble most opposition defences. The Calypso Girls have not finished in the top six since 1995, with a ninth placed finish in Sydney their most recent World Cup placing. Outside the shooters, it is hard not to recognise the name Rhonda John-Davis in the squad, with the veteran ageing like a fine wine and was playing World Cups before some of her opponents were even born. John-Davis will take to the court for the sixth time in a World Cup and will likely be the key in transition, slotting into the midcourt with the 41-year-old surely at her farewell World Cup. With 164 international appearances, she is a well respected figure across international netball, even if she is in the twilight of her career. Trinidad and Tobago are predicted to at least equal their ninth placed finish, with a victory over Fiji in the Preliminary Stage a must given the horror tough group of Jamaica and South Africa. While England will be a tough opponent in the next stage, they will enjoy big challenges against Scotland and Uganda to determine placings.


Coach: Anna Shepherd
World Ranking: 11
Best Result: 6th
Predicted: 10th

Barbados is another underdog nation that has landed a kinder group than that of its Americas counterpart. Whilst the Bajan Gems feature a host of relatively unknown players on the world stage, they have proven themselves to be competitive against stronger nations. They finished as high as sixth back in 1987, and have a strong netball competition in the nation. Payne is a particular player to watch having been a member of the Bajan Gems since she was a teenager and will now be at her fourth World Cup. Expect her to be a key in the goal circle, using her experience and crafty movement to set up plays for the ultimate utility in Blackman. The goal shooter can play just about any position on the court, having floated through the centre and in the defensive goal circle throughout her long and illustrious career. Now 36, she is a steadying force and was able to compete against the strength of Australia, Jamaica and South Africa last year at the 2018 Commonwealth Games. A third player to watch out for is experienced midcourter Damisha Croney who could well be the key to Barbados’ chances, likely to play through the centre for her nation. Having played throughout her childhood, she is still only 27 and along with captain Rhe-Ann Niles-Mapp will provide vast international experience across the court. Niles-Mapp is the key player up the defensive end, with the goal defence having to work hard to potentially double-team Malawi’s Joyce Mvula, while also opposed to star goaler, Maria Folau when the side faces the Silver Ferns. There is no doubt she and the rest of her teammates will be up against it at the World Cup, but landing on the favourable side of the draw – potentially wins against Singapore and Sri Lanka – should see them finish in the top 10, and given the injury of Mwai Kumwenda for Malawi and the unpredictability of Northern Ireland, the Bajan Gems are a dark horse to reach a single-digit finishing position once again.

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