Without their best players Jamaica's Sunshine Girls gearing up for 'tough' Fast 5 World Series

By October 18, 2023

Nicole Aiken-Pinnock, head coach of Jamaica’s Sunshine Girls concedes that without some the team’s best players, campaigning in next month’s Fast5 World Series Netball Tournament in New Zealand next month will be challenge.

However, she believes the coaching staff will get the available players ready for what are expected to be stern tests against Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Malawi and England in New Zealand.

Jamaica recently named its team for the tournament set for November 11-12 and notably absent were the experienced Shamera Sterling and Latanya Wilson, key defensive stalwarts for reigning Suncorp Super Netball champions Adelaide Thunderbirds. Also missing is Jhaniele Fowler, arguably the best shooter in the world, who represents the 2022 Super League champions West Coast Fever.

However, the team that will be led by New South Wales Swifts’ star shooter Romelda Aiken-George will include Adean Thomas, Gezelle Allison, Theresa Beckford, stand out U21 player Amanda Pinkney, Kimone Shaw, Crystal Plummer, Abigale Sutherland and former England U21 Rhea Dixon, the Loughborough Lightning attacking player, who recently became eligible to represent Jamaica.

Aiken-Pinnock revealed that the players have been undergoing rigorous training in preparation for the campaign.

"Fast 5 is tough,” she explained. “I have been to so many Fast 5s as a player and it’s really challenging. You’re playing five teams over two days. Even though it is a shortened version of the game, it still requires a lot more thinking. You truly have to understand what is it that you're about. You have to be ready at all times. So there is a lot that is required of you. There's no trying to feel sorry for yourself. So we're trying our best with the resources, with everything that we possibly have with the players.”

Providing some insight into how tough the sessions have been, Aiken-Pinnock drew reference to a shooter Gezelle Allison, who is returning to the national set up since giving birth to her first child mere months ago.

“Saturday morning we had a training session and literally we pushed them. We really, really pushed them a lot,” Aiken Pinnock revealed.

“I remember Gezelle, she was down on her knees and she was like “Coach” because it was really tough. They found this session to be one that was really, really tough for them. And I just had to remind them that this is exactly how you're going to be feeling when you get there. So they we have to bring them through the regime of what will be.”

Turning her attention to the absence of the defensive stars Sterling and Wilson, Aiken-Pinnock explained that after a busy schedule that included the Netball World Cup and the Suncorp Super Netball League, the players requested the time off.

"The senior girls, after the world championship they really needed the time off the rest and recover and we know how well all of them play Down Under and so they're also have to get their recovery in and going back down to their job. So we have to take all of that into consideration,” the coach explained.

"They have requested the time off from the association there's nothing we can do about that. And so for me, I try not to spend too much time thinking about that situation that because we can't fix that. So we just have to ensure that we pay close attention to the ladies who we are going to be working with and trying to get the best out of them so that they can perform and represent Jamaica.”

What this means is that the defensive players in the squad have big shoes to fill but the coach expressed confidence that they will deliver.

"So we definitely don't have any of our experienced defenders who would have gone to World Championship or any of the players who are playing Down Under. In terms of the defensive line up, definitely it's a challenge but we have to have faith in the ladies that we have and so while the time frame for preparation is also very short we are putting in as much work as we can,” she said.

“We have Kimone Shaw, she was at the World Championship in the squad of 15 as a reserve and she too went to the CAC Games. There's Teresa Beckford and Abigail Linton. So we just have to work on the confidence of these ladies and just getting them to be a bit more aware, getting them to be hungrier, getting their netball marks up and ready for what is to come.”

Linton will be playing in her first Fast 5 team but was a member of the Sunshine Girls gold-medal winning team at the CAC Games earlier this year.

Aiken-Pinnock shared her thoughts on what Dixon will bring to the Sunshine Girls line-up. The former England 21 qualifies to represent Jamaica through her grandmother with the move sanctioned by World Netball.

Aiken-Pinnock said she brings significant skills to the set up and has been working hard to achieve the required fitness standards.

"She put her hand up about expressing an interest in representing Jamaica. She has gone through interviews and that sort of thing. We have met with her, we have discussed with her. She's actually in training too at the moment. She has been in training for a little while too,” the former player turned coach revealed.

"It's an opportunity that I'm sure she's grateful for and she and she's very much excited about it. We just have to give her that platform for her to showcase her skills and wanting to represent Jamaica."

Aiken-Pinnock revealed that the Loughborough Lightning player, who is likely to be a starter, has been spent the past few weeks in the United Kingdom preparing for the competition.

“She's been training for a little while, weeks, because one of the things that we have done with her is that there's a test, a fitness test that she basically has to do on a weekly basis, just like our girls. She recorded herself doing the tests. She's in commission mode, not at the elite level in England, but I know that she's representing her university at the moment.

" She did pretty well on the fitness tests. So it's just about maintaining that consistency until she gets here to be with us, which is in a couple of days’ time. She has some experience with regards to high level competition and I'm sure that she's going to bring that same energy and effort to the Jamaica squad.”


Leighton Levy

Leighton Levy is a journalist with 28 years’ experience covering crime, entertainment, and sports. He joined the staff at SportsMax.TV as a content editor two years ago and is enjoying the experience of developing sports content and new ideas. At SportsMax.tv he is pursuing his true passion - sports.

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