Winless Sunshine Girls finish last at Fast5 World Series

By Sports Desk November 06, 2022

Jamaica’s Sunshine Girls ended the 2022 Fast5 Netball World Series without a win following second day losses to England, New Zealand and Uganda.

Overall, the inexperienced unit could only claim a last place finish after losing all five matches and being the only team at the tournament to fail to register a win.

The second and final day of the event began with a 27-32 loss to England, where the team started well but could not maintain its consistency and eventually paid for several costly turnovers.  Things were far less competitive against New Zealand who used the powerplay well to rack up 40 points in an 18-goal win over the Caribbean team.

The loss sent the Jamaicans to the 5th and 6th place play-offs against African team Uganda who they had already suffered a loss to on the previous day.  Things did not go better the second time around as the Jamaicans were once again unable to make any inroads against their lesser ranked opponents.  The surprise package of the tournament went to register an impressive 32-10 victory over the struggling Jamaicans and with it the 5th place spot.  After dominating for most of the tournament Australia ended the event as champions, earning a first world title.

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    The England-born winger, who suffered the injury earlier this year, while representing Saudi Pro League club Al-Ettifaq, recently returned to fitness, and his joy and excitement about being back in Jamaica’s setup are palpable, as he prepares to parade his skills in one of the most prestigious tournaments in international football.

    “It's good to be back; I was disappointed that I missed the World Cup qualifiers, but I'm happy the boys got the six points. I am glad to be back with the boys and excited for this tournament,” Gray said in an interview with the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) media.

    “It was a difficult end (to the season) with the injury, I had about six weeks out, but over the last few weeks, I've been working and trying to get as fit as possible for the Copa. So, we've got a few more days for me to build, and hopefully I can get off to a good start against Mexico,” he added.

    Gray going through his paces in training.

    Gray's injury initially cast doubt on his availability for the Copa America, but the 27-year-old's return to a clean bill of health represents a significant boost for the Reggae Boyz, who view him as a crucial component of their attacking force.

    Since he made the switch to represent Jamaica in 2023, Gray has quickly become a fan favorite, celebrated for his electrifying speed, deft dribbling, and ability to change the course of a game. His contributions have been instrumental in the Reggae Boyz's recent successes, including crucial goals and assists that have propelled the team forward in international competitions.

    Reflecting on his journey with the Jamaican national team, Gray expressed deep pride and a sense of belonging that transcends his England roots.

    “Yeah, it's been good. I've seen a lot since playing for Jamaica, playing back in Jamaica and being at the Gold Cup, and now being at this (Copa America) competition. So it's been good. It's been exciting, and fans have shown me a lot of love and respect, and the boys have been good,” Gray shared.

    “So, yeah, it's been a good experience and, you know, with these tournaments and the World Cup qualifiers that we've got ahead, there's a lot of exciting things to look forward to, and I'm just taking it each game at a time, trying to achieve and contribute as much as I can for the country,” the soft-spoken player declared.

    In 11 appearances so far, Gray has scored five goals, and he was instrumental in Jamaica’s historic third-place finish in the 2023-24 Concacaf Nations League campaign. That is an accomplishment that the nippy player prides himself on, and one he hopes is the first of many to come on the international stage.

    “Throughout my career, I want to get as many medals as I can, and win as many things as I can. I think we're a nation that's slowly building, I think you can see the talent and the potential that we've got, but things don't happen overnight, so we have to be a bit patient, but there's a lot to look forward to.

    “Just qualifying and making different competitions is good for us as players, the young players coming through and the fans, it's just good for the whole nation. So I think that would be the main objective, just trying to be as successful as we can in competitions and just keep building,” Gray noted.

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    “I am very excited. It's one I've been looking forward to. Obviously, if you look at the history of this tournament, see how many good players have played in it, and it's a very competitive tournament and testing tournament and I want to be tested at the highest levels in the best competitions,” he said.

    “I'm happy that we're in this and got an opportunity to showcase what we're about. It's going to be a tough tournament because it's very high quality, but without these tests, we're not going to push ourselves. I'm very excited. I can't wait for the first game,” Gray ended.

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    Wilson, a Jamaican defender, has been a standout player in her fourth Super Netball season. She has been instrumental in the Thunderbirds' success, particularly in her role as a wing defender. Known for her light footwork, closing speed, and vertical leap, Wilson has excelled in intercepts, leading the competition with 37. Her defensive prowess has made her a nightmare for opposing wing attacks and a critical asset in the Thunderbirds' lineup.

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    Wilson's outstanding play this season is even more impressive given the personal adversity she has faced. Last August, a fire, suspected to be arson, swept through her Kingston neighborhood, destroying multiple homes and leaving up to 50 people homeless or displaced. Wilson lost all her belongings, including her original World Cup bronze and Commonwealth Games silver medals. Despite this tragic setback, she has maintained her focus and elevated her game to new heights.

    On Saturday, Wilson delivered another stellar performance against the Giants, earning the Player of the Match award. Her game-changing presence and ability to disrupt opponents' plays have made her a vital part of the Thunderbirds' strategy, contributing significantly to their success.

    The last six seasons have seen the overall MVP award go to a Jamaican player (Jhaniele Fowler-Nembhard/Sterling-Humphrey) and Wilson is poised to continue this trend. Her resilience, skill, and impact on the court make her a strong candidate for this prestigious honor.

     

     

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    The Girls 18 & Under team will see Issa partnering with Kierra Williams, supported by reserve player Anoushka Khatri. Olivia-Marie Green will compete in the Girls 15 & Under category, while the Girls 11-13 category features Alessandra Coe and Mallaina Williams, both eager to make their mark.

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    The championship is backed by an array of sponsors, including British Caribbean Insurance Company (BCIC), Digicel Group, Fleetwood Jamaica Limited, Island Car Rentals & Tours, Wisynco, and Restaurants of Jamaica. Their support underscores the significance of the event and the high hopes placed on Team Jamaica.

     

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