Sunshine Girls defender Shamera Sterling continued the legacy of Jamaicans being named Suncorp Super Netball Player of the year, as she copped this year’s top honours and again etched her name in the annals of the sport’s history.

After winning a maiden title with the Adelaide Thunderbirds and taking the club’s champion award, Sterling became just the second Jamaican player in the tournament’s history to win the coveted Player of the Year accolade, at Netball Australia’s Award ceremony on Saturday.

The ever-impressive goalkeeper joined ace shooter Jhaniele Fowler, who won the award for the last five years consecutively from 2018 to 2022, and in the process, ensured that it became six on the trot for Jamaican players.

Sterling, 27, has been pivotal to the Thunderbirds’ defensive end ever since she burst onto the scene in 2019, becoming an instant fan favorite.

In her fifth season in the league, the Sunshine Girl standout assisted the Thunderbirds to the club’s first premiership in a decade, when they defeated the NSW Swifts in an epic grand final where she recorded seven crucial gains, three intercepts and three rebounds.

For this year, sterling led the league with 118 deflections, a substantial 15 more than the second-highest ranked player, and she also topped the league with 46 interceptions, to underline her credentials as one of, if not, the world’s best.

Sterling was also named in the team of the year at goalkeeper, alongside compatriots Latanya Wilson, who parades her skills at wing-defence, as the two form a dynamic duo in the Adelaide Thunderbirds defence, while Jodi-Ann Ward, another defender, stood out for the Collingwood Magpies.

A number of Caribbean players are now left in wait-and-see mode, as they could be affected by an ongoing pay dispute in the Australian Super Netball League.

Players such as Jamaica’s Jhaniele Fowler, Romelda Aiken-George, Shamera Sterling, and Trinidad and Tobago’s Samantha Wallace, are among those who will be watching with bated breaths, after Australia Netball Players’ Association rejected the latest offer from Netball Australia and the eight Super Netball League clubs.

Officials from Netball Australia and the clubs expressed disappointment at the ANPA’s dismissal of the offer that they described as a “ground-breaking” collective player agreement.

However, the ANPA in its response said, “the players believe they’ve bent over backwards” in a bid to reach an agreement, and they are now appealing for mediation “to achieve meaningful and fair progress.”

Netball Australia on Monday stated that an offer was made to improve its investment by AUS $1.275 million – a 20 per cent increase across a three-year deal.

Netball Australia explained that offer was on top of “the earning potential of a profit-share partnership model”, and this was without any forecast material increase in the sport’s revenue in the short term, given the current broadcast deal runs until 2026.

Netball Australia added that it offered a base wage increase of nine per cent over three years and a maximum salary cap increase of three per cent over the same term, in addition to increased potential commercial earnings, extra playing and earning opportunities with the introduction of rookies, and a share in the profits generated by the Super Netball League for the first time.

“Throughout negotiations, Netball Australia and the clubs have made significant concessions in good faith to finalise the deal and build a strong partnership model with the ANPA and Super Netball players. Netball Australia and the ANPA met again [this past] Saturday, and we continue to offer to meet to finalise a deal,” a statement from Netball Australia said.

“Netball Australia and the clubs are not opposed to mediation, but we are concerned beginning the process at this late stage would extend this already lengthy process and continue to delay the stability and certainty all parties seek.

“Netball Australia and the eight clubs have simply reached their capacity to make further concessions to the ANPA and players without jeopardising the health of the league and its teams, their respective stakeholders, and the entire netball eco-system in Australia,” the statement continued.

Netball Australia pointed out that any further increase to player wages beyond the current offer would be irresponsible, because they would negatively impact funding for community and grassroots netball.

It reiterated that the three-year deal would provide much-needed stability for the players, clubs and the league and would ensure all parties could focus on working together collectively to grow the sport.

“We appeal to the ANPA to re-consider our revised three-year offer and present it to all Super Netball players, so they can have their say,” the statement ended.

But the players’ association argued that Netball Australia had rejected a real partnership with the players.

“We cannot in good conscience lock players into an unfair three-year deal, which does not reflect their value and contribution,” the players’ association statement asserted.

“Adding to the players’ concern is a lack of clarity around the finances underpinning the game, and uncertainty around the strategic direction for netball.”

The schedule for the 2024 Super Netball League season is yet to be released because of the collective player agreement dispute.

Sterling and compatriot Latanya Wilson are members of The Adelaide Thunderbirds, while Wallace and Aiken-George represents New South Wales Swifts. Fowler is a member of West Coast Fever.

 

Defending Suncorp Super League champions West Coast Fever suffered their first loss of the season, going down 64-63 to the Adelaide Thunderbirds at the RAC Arena on Saturday.

Led by the league’s leading scorer Jhaniele Fowler, who scored 51 goals from 53 attempts, the Fever outscored the Thunderbirds 20-17 and 15-14 over the first two quarters, respectively, to take a 35-31 lead into the half-time break.

Fowler has now scored 331 goals this season.

However, despite winning the third quarter 15-14, the Fever were unable to hold off the Thunderbirds, who stormed back to outscore the champions 19-13 in the final stanza to snatch victory. Eleanor Cardwell led the Thunderbirds scoring with 33 goals from 34 attempts but key to their victory was that she hit eight of her 14 super shots.

Wing Defence Latanya Wilson and Goal Keeper Shamera Sterling played key roles on the defensive side with nine intercepts between them. The much-anticipated battle between Jamaican teammates Fowler and Shamera Sterling proved decisive as the Goal Keeper, who had six deflections, made it difficult for Fever to connect into the circle and suffered their first loss of the season on home court.

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