Barbados captain Rhe-Ann Niles-Mapp (right) battling Uganda’s Stella Oyella in the second test. (Picture by Kenmore Bynoe.)
The three-test series which the Bajan Gems lost 2-1 to seventh-ranked Uganda She Cranes over the weekend exposed a number of flaws in the local girls’ preparation for their sixth expedition to the Commonwealth Games at the end of this month.
The biggest crack in the Gems was that too many of the players were carrying injuries or too much weight, and the lack of height and speed created liabilities for what was arguably Barbados’ weakest netball team ever.
Fully fit captain Rhe-Ann Niles-Mapp and Shonette Bruce can provide competitive defence in the shooting circle. However, their strength and height were tested by Uganda, who do not have the rivalling height expected from the upcoming foes on the Gold Coast.
At the other end, Latonia Blackman was a gem who needed greater setting of other jewels to fully showcase her value. However, it was painfully shown that Nikita Payne and Shonica Blackman were just as good shooters as the other Blackman, but seemed to be battling fitness to be at their best.
The visitors showed what set plays, speed and fitness can achieve as they appeared to be more lionesses than Cranes in defending the court and forcing the Bajans to often pass back the ball or turn it over in trying to penetrate closed lanes.
Thus, the Gems’ weakness in the centre was horribly exposed, with coach Sandra Bruce-Small making a number of substitutions which worked only briefly or trying combinations which never fired. The flashy Sabreena Smith never dazzled and the reliable Damisha Croney disappointed.
Starter Teresa Howell looked good in the second test but then she hit reset to the horror of the first, while Tonisha Rock-Yaw often turned over the ball playing mid-court or gave up too many penalty shots when she was tried in the defence circle.
Rieah Holder, who has stymied her great potential by spending most of the domestic season playing backup for a strong Blackbirds team, never got going in the series and neither did the high-jumping Shonte Seale, who passed too many balls and committed too many penalties.
While Bruce-Small indicated that her playing decisions were considerate of players who were carrying injuries and who will be leaving for the Commonwealth Games, it was surprising that Vanessa Bobb never suited up for any of the tests, while Stefanie Patrick, Amanda Knight and T’Shane Foster were given court time but no tickets to the Gold Coast.
While winning a match against the Ugandans will aid the 11th-ranked Gems in gaining vital ranking points, their foray Down Under will be tough as they are in a Zone ‘A’ with number one Australia, Jamaica, 4, South Africa, 5, Northern Ireland, 8, and Fiji, who are listed at 12. (KB)