St Vincent and the Grenadines senior netballers will begin their quest to gain one of two qualifying spots for next year’s World Cup in South Africa from this Sunday, October 16 at the National Indoor Sports Centre in Kingston, Jamaica.
Twelve players will exert their skills, physical attributes, mental fortitude, personal desires and that innate nationalism, carrying the expectations of St Vincent and the Grenadines on their backs.
This, as much has been made of the team’s preparations, coupled with media hypes and promises to deliver the country with a pre- independence gift, compliments a direct qualification to South Africa.
Indeed, the ladies have been given an assurance of confidence, willed on by the efforts of the current executive of the St Vincent and the Grenadines Netball Association, headed by President, Natasha Baptiste.
Extension of the hope has escalated to the point that this country’s Prime Minister, Dr Ralph Gonsalves, who in his capacity has given government’s commitment to the team’s cause in a most tangible way.
Such is the magnitude weighing down on the heads of the players who will don the national colours on the courts in Jamaica from this Sunday, October 16, to Saturday, October 22.
During that aforementioned period, the Vincentian lasses will compete against Antigua and Barbuda, Cayman Islands, Grenada, St Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago and the USA for honours, for one of the places.
Also involved in the qualifiers is host Jamaica, however, they have gained an automatic place to South Africa based on their rankings in World Netball standings.
So, it is St Vincent and the Grenadines versus the other seven.
To put the qualifiers into perspective and based on current pedigree and rankings, set aside Jamaica St Vincent and the Grenadines starts in position four.
As such, the latest World Netball rankings show St Vincent and the Grenadines at position 21.
Trinidad and Tobago is 11; Barbados, 14; Grenada, 20, St Lucia,22; Antigua and Barbuda,30; Cayman Islands, 32; and the United States of America, 37.
Power house, Jamaica occupies the third place on the overall rankings.
Of note too, the top three- Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados were all part of the Commonwealth Games in July/ August, held in Birmingham, England, having qualified for the event.
Hence, it has been widely promoted that St Vincent and the Grenadines has to upstage either Trinidad and Tobago or Barbados in the qualifiers to make good of their chances for a berth to South Africa.
Sentiments are that Barbados is the likely target, as familiarity holds best for the Vincentians’ chances.
This, as St Vincent and the Grenadines lost to Barbados in a tight contest in the OECS Invitational Tournament held last February in Dominica.
Additionally, St Vincent and the Grenadines was guest of the Barbadians in a three- match friendly series in July, as Barbados prepared for their outing at the Commonwealth Games.
Fair conjecture, but it is noteworthy that Grenada and St Lucia have proven to be formidable rivals and obstructive forces to St Vincent and the Grenadines in the past, and have been arch rivals in many OECS face- offs.
Therefore, what has St Vincent and the Grenadines done in recent times to suggest that we have positioned ourselves to defeat either Barbados or Trinidad and Tobago, as well as gain wins over St.Lucia and Grenada?
Apart from their outings in the OECS championships and the three- match series versus Barbados, St.Vincent and the Grenadines has not had much exposure to regional competitions.
The best in the prohibitive circumstances were some intense matches against the St Vincent and the Grenadines male outfit.
It means that head coach, Godfrey Harry and his assistant, Vasha Adams, along with twelve selected players, along with the rest of the management unit, must give of their best in the upcoming days.
All have to bring their A game in the seven matches to have a realistic chance of copping one of the two spots up for grabs.
Whilst not impossible, it will certainly take some doing for St Vincent and the Grenadines to qualify when realism is highly considered and factored in.
Come what may, Vincentians home and abroad will be rooting for their own and whatever the outcome, that St Vincent and the Grenadines’ Netball sees growth on and off the court.
More so, that the players who are carrying out their ambassadorial duties would have inspired other young ladies to aspire to become national netballers.