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THE Barbados Netball Association (BNA) and the Barbados Olympic Association (BOA) must be commended for trying to get the national squad in competitive mode for the Commonwealth Games.
In the past it can be argued that our team seldom had enough or at times any warm-up matches before major competition.
This naturally placed them at a big disadvantage especially against some of the better teams who always seemed to have an active international schedule in place even in years when there were no major competitions.
Until fairly recently Barbados didn’t play a single international in over a year and it could have jeopardised our participation in Scotland because it was possible that others who were playing could have superseded us in the rankings.
   I hope we don’t find ourselves in that position again. As it is, netball is our highest ranked team in world sport and deserves an extra push, particularly when they are preparing to face the toughest teams in the world.
There’s no way that we should be facing the likes of Australia, England, New Zealand and Jamaica without having tested our skills against at least one of them prior to tournament play. It gives us the best chance to assess what we need to do improve.
My understanding is that we will be facing off against the sunshine girls of Jamaica in a goodwill series next month in Kingston.
It will probably be our last warm-up before the Commonwealth Games to round off a fairly busy period for the netballers, speaking in relative terms.
I can’t remember a time when our senior nationals have had so many international commitments.
In the last six months they have travelled to Northern Ireland and Trinidad, have just hosted St Lucia and are slated to jet off to Jamaica shortly.
All the teams would have used  the series for the same purpose as they will all be in Scotland.
There was some innovation in the St Lucia matches as the teams  agreed to play six quarters in two of the games unlike the traditional four and 15 players per team were used.
The agreement allowed both sides more than adequate time to put strategy to the test as well as give players the opportunity to impress the coaches before they make the final cut of 12 for the Commonwealth Games.
Barbados currently have 24 players in training and coach Anna Shepherd, as expected, exposed all of them against our neighbours.
Notwithstanding that we easily won the three-match series, the opportunity was taken to see how various combinations would work and the line-up for the last game may have given some insight into their thinking.
Still, I believe there’s nothing written in stone yet, so further opportunities will be handed to the fringe players to make their mark on the Jamaica trip and give the selectors a lot more to think about.
Part of coach Shepherd’s philosophy over the years has been to give youth a chance at the highest level once she believes they have the potential to serve the nation well in the future.
Plus, succession planning is essential in national development. Based on that, I duly expect to see some of the  young guns on the flight to Scotland.
She also prefers some who can multi-task just in case she has to reshuffle her cards to suit the game situation. Barbados have traditionally favoured a fast game with quick end-to-end transition, so there won’t be a problem getting the ball into the goal circle, but I think our Achilles heel is that the shooters aren’t always as accurate as they have to be against top-class opponents.
The retired Lydia Bishop was an exception to this rule, so the current crop should aim to emulate her in this respect, but then again she could also handle pressure and that may have been the difference between her and others.
I am sure those much closer to the action know which areas need strengthening and I trust them to put things in place for the Commonwealth Games.
For now the BNA and the BOA can take a bow for giving them the chance to prepare adequately for battle.
Andi Thornhill is an experienced,award-winning sports journalist. Email:[email protected]