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Netball an all-round favorite

Netball is the number one women’s sport in Jamaica and is played throughout the country at the school and club levels. It is also the highest-ranked sports team in the country.

Locally, the sport enjoys great popularity and internationally, administrators of the sport are highly esteemed, with Jamaica’s Molly Rhone holding the position of president of the International Federation of Netball Associations (IFNA). Rhone, the only Jamaican to head an international sporting association, is slated to receive a national award at the National Honours and Awards Ceremony at Kings House in National Heroes Day, October 17.

The country’s national netball team is known as the Sunshine Girls. The governing body for netball in the country is the Jamaica Netball Association, which oversees four national squads – the senior squad, under-13, under-16 and under-21.

The senior Sunshine Girls are ranked third in the world, behind New Zealand, Australia and ahead of England.

Nadine Bryan is now captain of the team, while Oberon Pitterson now coaches the team. Pitterson replaced Connie Francis as head coach in May. The assistant coach is Annette Daley.  Pitterson had coached the team before, having done so at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, Australia in 2006, when Jamaica finished fourth.

Jamaica also placed 4th in the recently concluded World Netball Championships.

The senior netballers were trying to improve their world rankings at the July 3 to 10 World Championships in Singapore, and were without their inspirational captain Simone Forbes in Singapore.

Forbes tested positive for the banned substance Clomiphene during an out-of-competition drug test. The drug is frequently used by athletes taking steroid, but also commonly used in fertility.

She was subsequently banned by the Jamaica Anti-Doping Commission for three months.

The country has participated in every Netball World Championships since their inception in 1963. The Sunshine Girls have placed third in three of those championships – 1991, 2003 and 2007 and fourth in 1971 and 1999.

Netball was included in the Commonwealth Games programme, for the first time, in 1998 in Kuala Lumpur and Jamaica placed fifth behind Australia, New Zealand and England. Since the 1998 Commonwealth Games, Jamaica’s netballers improved to bronze medal in 2002 and placed fourth in 2006 and 2010.

Jamaica also won a silver medal at the inaugural World Netball Series tournament in 2009 after losing the gold medal match 32-27 to New Zealand in Manchester, England.

The World Netball Series is played under fastnet rules. Fastnet is a variation on the rules of netball designed to make games faster and more television-friendly.

The senior Sunshine Girls were bronze medal winners in the 2010 World Netball Series played in Manchester, England.

At the World Youth Under-21 Championships, Jamaica’s best efforts were second in the 2000 tournament held in Wales and third in the 2009 tournament in the Cook Island.

Jamaica’s netballers have dominated the junior and senior competitions at the Caribbean level.

Jamaica have lost only once in the Caribbean Netball Association Under-16 Championships, which was inaugurated in 1998. The only defeat came at the 2005 tournament in St Kitts, where the country won silver.  Jamaica decided not to take part in the 2011 tournament.

And Jamaica’s senior team has raked up a number of victories at the Caribbean Netball Championships, since placing third at the inaugural tournament in 1984.