Back in the fold: former captain Plummer exuded readiness for spot on Reggae Girlz World Cup squad on return from maternity leave; Donaldson says selection a no-brainer

By June 23, 2023
Former Reggae Girlz captain Konya Plummer with assistant coach Xavier Gilbert during a recent camp Former Reggae Girlz captain Konya Plummer with assistant coach Xavier Gilbert during a recent camp contributed

Former senior Reggae Girlz captain Konya Plummer expectedly worked her way back to full fitness to book her spot on Lorne Donaldson's 23-player squad to the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand next month.

In fact, there were no real surprises to the selections made by Donaldson and his assistants Xavier Gilbert, Ak Lakhani and Laura Thomas, as all the main protagonists –many of whom were a part of the historic 2019 team in France –will be present at this July 20 to August 20 showpiece.

Obviously, form was a big decisive factor in the squad selection and Donaldson, in a previous interview, made that very clear, though in the same breath, he admitted that he had 18 or 19 players locked in, which meant he only had four or five positions to fill.

Donaldson ideally kept a large bulk of the Cup of Nations squad for team harmony purposes, especially since he stressed the need for cohesiveness, so there were only a few changes from that 24 that went down under in February. 

Goalkeepers Rebecca Spencer, Sydney Schneider, and their 17-year-old understudy Liya Brooks, who seem found the liking of Donaldson and his assistants since their historic tour of South Korea in September last year, were always safe.

So too was Allyson Swaby, Chantelle Swaby, Tiernny Wiltshire, Deneisha Blackwood, and Vyan Sampson in the defensive line, along with midfielders Havana Solaun, Drew Spence, Solai Washington, Atlanta Primus, and attackers Khadija Shaw, Jody Brown, Paige Bailey-Gayle, Cheyna Matthews, and Kameron Simmonds.

Simmonds, 19, and Washington, 17, have consistently been logging minutes since the Cup of Nations tournament in Australia and as expected, found favour with the coaching staff as they are viewed as players who can add flexibility to the attacking front.

Both are relatively inexperienced but were effective in those games against Czech Republic, Australia, and more recently Sheffield and these World Cup debutants could be difference-makers from the bench.

At one point there were concerns that Donaldson's faith in Trudi Carter reduced as the months go by, and it was evident by her omission from the camp in England. However, the nippy attacker, currently without a club since her contract with Spanish Liga F club FC Levante Las Planas expired, proved her readiness at a just-concluded camp in Jamaica.

Ohio State midfielder Peyton McNamara, who, like the other young players, always commanded the coaching staff's attention and the 22-year-old was rightly handed a spot, especially with Siobhan Wilson of Birmingham City, missing out due to injury.

Sashana "Pete" Campbell, who wasn't called upon since she picked up an injury at the Concacaf Women's Championship in Mexico, reported fit and healthy for the recent camp and made the cut, as an emergency alternative to fill the centre back or full back positions, if needed.

That said, a lot of emphasis was placed on the readiness of Plummer and the 25-year-old, who only resumed training late last year, after giving birth to her son, erased all doubts about her readiness for a second-consecutive World Cup appearance, as she hit competitive mode at the right time to make a return to the squad in the heart of the defence.

Versatility was always expected to be a characteristic held in high regard if players want to go the distance at the global showpiece and Tiffany Cameron is a perfect example, given her ability as an attacker and now as a right full back.

It is that show of versatility that secured Cameron's place in the final 23.

Prior to the Cup of Nations tournament, Cameron did not get many minutes, until she accepted the fact that she would not make the squad as an attacker.

Despite logging over 14 goals and 10 assists in over 15 games for her Hungarian top-flight club FC Gyor, Cameron, who could be considered an important leader in the Reggae Girlz group, embraced change and made the right full back position her comfort zone. She is expected to rotate the position with Wiltshire and possibly Chantelle Swaby.

Donaldson beamed about the makeup of the squad, pointing out that players, Plummer, Carter and Campbell, in particular, selected themselves. 

"We always try to pick the best possible squad, things changed along the way with injuries and so on, but the players consistently turned up and proved to us that they were worthy of their positions. Konya and Trudi came in and did well, two veteran players, we know what they were capable of I didn't select them, they selected themselves because even though they are without clubs, they committed themselves to the task by training on their own and did very well when they came into camp," Donaldson told SportsMax.tv. 

"It is basically the same for the young players, they did well camp after camp, they proved they belong among the veterans, and we had no choice but to put them in. Their fitness was also on par, and we have no doubt that they will give a good account of themselves," he added.

Meanwhile, Kayla McKenna, formerly McCoy, who missed out on the 2019 showpiece at the very last minute due to injury, has now been given another shot, as she has been doing well with Scottish Women’s Premier League Club Rangers.

"Kayla again, is a veteran she picked up an injury when we were in England, but we have been in contact with her club, and they assured us that she will be ready for the World Cup. She is one of those players who brings value to the attack as a point player so we know she will do well," Donaldson noted.

"Where Campbell is concerned, she is a very versatile player, who can give us quality work in any position between defence and attack. So, if she if she is needed, we can have her come in because she has a lot of quality. So, we feel like it's a very balanced squad, Trudi, Jody and Vyan are also versatile, so it's a squad we like, and we just have to wait and see what happens," he shared.

Racing Louisville's Satara Murray and Brighton's Victoria Williams missed out on selection along with Rachel Jones, and 2019 veterans Chinyelu Asher and Marlo Sweatman, both of whom have been absent from the squad for quite some time. Mireya Grey and Olufolasade Adamolekun, who were also present in France, also failed to make the cut.

The Girlz will contest Group F alongside France, Brazil and Panama at the World Cup.

World Cup Squad: Goalkeepers: Rebecca Spencer, Sydney Schneider, Liya Brooks

Defenders: Allyson Swaby, Chantelle Swaby, Konya Plummer, Tiernny Wiltshire, Tiffany Cameron, Deneisha Blackwood, Peyton McNamara, Sashana Campbell (Alternate player)

Midfielders: Havana Solaun, Vyan Sampson, Drew Spence, Atlanta Primus, Solai Washington, Trudi Carter

Forwards: Khadija Shaw, Jody Brown, Paige Bailey-Gayle, Kameron Simmonds, Cheyna Matthews, Kalyssa Van Zanten, Kayla McKenna

 

Sherdon Cowan

Sherdon Cowan is a five-time award-winning journalist with 10 years' experience covering sports.

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