Hungry for success: Afeisha Noel raring to go, as resurgent Calypso Girls eager to reclaim competitive status on World stage

By July 26, 2023
Trinidad and Tobago's Co-captain Afeisha Noel. Trinidad and Tobago's Co-captain Afeisha Noel.

As the start of the much-anticipated Vitality Netball World Cup draws closer, Trinidad and Tobago’s competitive spirit is very much stimulated, as they are on a mission to regain their status as perennial title contenders.

In fact, the confidence exuded by Co-captain Afeisha Noel is just one indicator of the belief and unflinching desire in the Calypso Girls camp to not only achieve a rise in the ranking, but to go as close as possible to a podium finish on this occasion.

This, as the twin island republic remains one of only three teams to have lifted the Netball World Cup trophy in the tournament’s 60-year history. The other two are of course powerhouses Australia and New Zealand.

Trinidad and Tobago boast this unique distinction, having shared the title with Australia and New Zealand in 1979. Back then the tournament was played over two round-robin group stages with no play-offs, and after the three nations all finished with eight wins and one loss, they were declared joint winners.

They also placed second and third at the 1983 and 1987 editions but have lost competitive shape since then with their next best finish being a sixth at the 1995 staging.

However, Noel declared that they are now out to right that wrong, and a possible top four or top five finish, which would all but underline their resurgence for future success.

 “Being the only team from the Caribbean to have won a World Cup is really great and a legacy that me and my teammates represent. It's been nearly 50 years since that T&T win in 1979, and for some of that time, we were still at the top of world netball and we were still contenders, but that has changed and for a lot of reasons,” Noel said.

“We've found it difficult to get the whole team back to playing at that competitive level, and it's not for lack of trying. The slide didn't happen overnight, and it didn't happen with one team, or at one tournament. So, the comeback story won't be just one episode.

“So, we are heading into this World Cup as an underdog, but we will get back (to being title contenders), it may not be now, but that doesn't mean we won't give it our best shot. We will take every opportunity to step up that ladder back to the top of the podium. This World Cup is one of those steps in our journey back…or maybe even never know,” she told from the team’s base in Cape Town.

According to Noel, the Calypso Girls are now ready and raring to perform with much gusto and prove competitive throughout the tournament, having now adjusted to the conditions since their arrival in South Africa almost two weeks now.

Trinidad and Tobago, currently ranked at 10 in the world, is grouped in Pool D alongside Uganda, Singapore, and defending champions New Zealand.

“Things have fallen into place nicely. The first two days here in South Africa had the ladies a bit flustered and jet lagged, but we’ve overcome that. Being that we are Caribbean people, and are used to warm weather, we focus on working around and adapting to South Africa’s winter weather, so we are hyped and ready to get back on the court and have another productive session before game time,” Noel shared.

“We all have mixed emotions. Some are hyped and ready to go and there is some nervousness as well, but we're more excited than anything else. We have been grinding in our training sessions, but we are all in a good space heading into our first match up,” she noted.

That first match is scheduled for Friday against number two-ranked New Zealand, which will be followed by a clash against Singapore the following day, before they come up against Uganda on July 30.

Noel, who along with Shaquanda Green-Noel and Daystar Swift, are expected to lead from the front, pointed out that she is more anticipating a rematch with Uganda.

“The match up against Uganda is something of a personal one for me given that we lost to them at the Commonwealth Games last year. We went back over the tapes from that game and taking whatever lessons we can from our mistakes,” she revealed.

“As for Singapore, I’ve never played against them and even though it's obvious that they are ranked lower than us, we are not taking any team for granted because nobody came here just to shop for fridge magnets,” Noel ended.

Sherdon Cowan

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

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