A ray of sunshine: Caribbean players light up Round six of Suncorp Super Netball League

By Sports Desk May 21, 2024
Jamaican players share a dance after the Fever, Thunderbirds clash on Saturday. Jamaican players share a dance after the Fever, Thunderbirds clash on Saturday. (Photos: Getty Images)

The Suncorp Super Netball league has no shortage of international superstars, but the clash between the West Coast Fever and Adelaide Thunderbirds well and truly showcased the Jamaican excellence the competition hosts.

With six Jamaican Sunshine Girls split evenly between the two teams, the battle was fierce and full of flair, as it eventually ended 57-56 in favour of the Fever.

Jhaniele Fowler-Nembhard is no easybeat, and with the likes of Shanice Beckford serving her the ball on a silver platter, the Fever had no issue with scoring.

However, Shamera Sterling-Humphrey and Latanya Wilson would not let it all go the Fever’s way, picking off deflections left, right and centre.

At the other end, Romelda Aiken-George and Kadie-Ann Dehaney went head-to-head in another enormous battle, which well and truly highlighted the impressive agility and elevation of the Jamaican superstars.

All close friends off the court, the six players united after the match for a brilliant Jamaican team moment, sharing a dance for the remaining crowd.

Shimona Jok (left) was one of many high-performing Jamaicans this week.

Elsewhere, Jamaican Shimona Jok won the player of the match award for her impressive 50-goal game in the Maverick’s 69-62 win against the Firebirds, while another Jamaican Jodi-Ann Ward worked in overdrive in the Sydney derby. However, her GIANTS team went down 52-76 to New South Wales Swift, led by Trinidad and Tobago’s Samantha Wallace-Joseph.

After another week of intense battles, it comes as no surprise that Fowler-Nembhard remains atop the Nissan Net Points leaderboard with 690.5 points to her name, with Sterling-Humphrey (539.5 points) fourth on that list.

With 355 goals to her name from 363 attempts, Fowler-Nembhard has scored over 100 goals more than Donnell Wallam (253 goals from 297 attempts), who sits second on both the goals and attempts leaderboard, while Aiken-George (214 goals from 245 attempts) occupies fourth on the attempts chart and fifth on the goals side.

Trinidad and Tobago's Samantha Wallace-Joseph (right) did some damage for NSW Swifts.

On the flip side, Aiken-George (30) leads the offensive rebound stats, with Fowler-Nembhard (16) in fifth. Fever’s Fran Williams (13) head the defensive rebound standing.

Sterling-Humphrey leads the pack for deflections with 43, while Wilson (32 deflections) is in fourth position, but both Jamaicans are locked on 20 apiece in first and second on the intercept leaderboard.

Beckford (124) sit fourth for centre pass receives, as Liz Watson (155) heads that chart, along with the goal assists chart where she has 154.

Meanwhile, Helen Housby continues to reign supreme on the Suncorp Super Shot with 39 to her name for the season from 55 attempts, ahead of Sophie Dwyer (31 from 48).

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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.

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    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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    The Boyz will kick start their Group B campaign against perennial rivals Mexico, before rubbing shoulders with Venezuela and Ecuador later in the tournament.

    “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.

  • Latanya Wilson in-line for season MVP in Suncorp Super League Latanya Wilson in-line for season MVP in Suncorp Super League

    Latanya Wilson, affectionately known as "Latty," has emerged as a leading contender for the Suncorp Super Netball MVP Award, thanks to her exceptional performances this season for the Adelaide Thunderbirds. Despite facing significant personal challenges, including a devastating fire last August that destroyed her home in Kingston and most of her belongings, Wilson has shown remarkable resilience and determination on the court.

    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.

    In addition to her success in wing defense, Wilson has also proven to be a formidable option in the goal defense circle. Teaming up with fellow Sunshine Girl and last year's Super Netball MVP, Shamera Sterling-Humphrey, Wilson has helped create one of the most formidable defensive units in the league. Sterling-Humphrey, who is second behind Wilson for intercepts with 33, leads the league in defensive rebounds (23) and deflections (68). The duo's combined efforts have lessened the Thunderbirds' reliance on Sterling-Humphrey as the last line of defense, allowing the team to pressure opponents higher up the court.

    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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    Williams and Issa emerged as the top contenders in the Boys and Girls 18 & Under categories during the recent three-day trials held at the same venue. Their stellar performances have set high expectations for the team, which features a blend of seasoned players and promising newcomers.

    In the Boys 18 & Under category, Williams will be joined by Aman Dhiman and Ryan Lue. This strong trio will be backed up by reserves Noah Azan and Jerone Thomas, ready to step in if needed. The Boys 15 & Under team includes Kemari Morris, Davin Hogan, and Cameron Coe, with Jamal Stewart on standby as a reserve. Representing the youngest male age group, the Boys 11-13 category, Shasa Redlefsen will be the sole competitor.

    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.

    National coaches Jason Lopez and Jonathan Newnham have been rigorously preparing the team, aiming to capture the Hank James Country Trophy for the first time. Jamaica's past performances at the CAJGC include notable second-place finishes in 2018 and 2019.

    Team manager Alison Reid expressed her optimism about the team’s prospects, especially given the advantage of competing on home soil. The players are poised to leverage this familiarity to their benefit, with strong support from their coaches and the local golfing community.

    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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