Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Singapore Netball is celebrating this week, after securing its biggest sponsorship deal to date. NTUC FairPrice Foundation has announced an $S80,000 ($60,000US) title sponsorship deal for the Nations Cup tournament, funding which will be used to develop the six-team Cup, to be played at the Toa Payoh Sports Hall from 6-12 December. Pictured above some of the national team players in front of the sponsor's promotional bus. Seeing netballers on the side of the bus - terrific.

Singapore has hosted the annual tournament since its inception in 2006, attracting 12 different countries over the years. The new sponsorship agreement is part of the Foundation's efforts to cultivate Singapore's sporting talent and promote greater interest in sports. This year's Cup will see the hosts face favourites Scotland (ranked 16th in the world), Tanzania and new entrants Wales, India and Namibia. The Scots lost to Northern Ireland in last year's final. And in a move which is certain to broaden the appeal of netball across the continent, the final will be broadcast live across 26 Asian countries for the first time in 2010.

With only ten days to go until the start of the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, and despite concerns from some quarters about security and the facilities on site, the twelve netballing nations competing are finalising their preparations. Host nation India received a welcome boost this week with the news that 17 year old star player Megha Chaudhary has been exonerated of all doping charges which forced her withdrawal from her country’s squad and has rejoined her team. Meanwhile, South Africa’s Proteas will face Samoa in a friendly warm up game on arrival in India at the start of next week and the Australian Diamonds are on their way to Malaysia for a pre-tournament training camp. The Barbados squad has broken its journey to India in England, playing friendly matches against leading club side Academy as well as the England Excel squad. The Commonwealth Games netball competition is scheduled to start on 4 October, when Samoa takes on Australia.

Standard Bank Malawi will once again sponsor the country’s national netball championships, which launches its 19th season on Saturday with a high profile parade and celebration event in Blantyre. The competition, which will run nationwide, will be co-ordinated with Malawi’s national football championships to encourage participation in sport in general across the country.

In Jamaica, defending champions St Hugh’s High and the Queen’s School started this year’s ISSA/Digicel-sponsored Urban Schoolgirls netball championships, which started this week. St Hugh's are the defending Senior League champions while The Queen's are the National All-Island and Urban Junior champions.

With preparations already under way for the 2011 ANZ Championship season, New Zealand’s Southern Steel franchise has some unexpected planning headaches to contend with, after a heavy snowfall caused part of the roof of Invercargill’s Stadium Southland to collapse last weekend. Early estimates suggest that the stadium could be out of action for up to 18 months, which means that the Invercargill-based side will be looking to play home fixtures in Dunedin next year. These disruptions come after the Canterbury provincial championships team was forced to find a new home court, following damage caused by the recent earthquake in the region.

Friday, 17 September 2010

With less than a month to the start of the competition, all teams participating in the netball competition at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi are in final stages of preparations. The 12 teams have been split into two pools: Australia, Jamaica, Malawi, Samoa, Trinidad & Tobago and India make up one group, while New Zealand, England, South Africa, Cook Islands, Barbados and Papua New Guinea comprise the other pool. The competition starts on 4 October, with the final scheduled for 14 October.

Following its success at the African qualification competition for the 2011 World Championships, The Botswana Netball Association (BONA) has appealed to companies across Africa for sponsorship to enable the side to compete in the Six Nations tournament, to be held in Singapore in December. Funded by the Botswana National Sports Council (BNSC), BONA does not have sufficient funds to participate in extended overseas tours but needs to increase its players’ exposure to international competition as they look to improve the country’s world ranking of 18.

The Fiji netball team will not be able to defend its title at the 2011 Pacific Games in New Caledonia, following a decision by the host country not to stage a netball competition as part of the programme. Despite the fact that netball is one of the biggest sports played across the Pacific, it is an optional sport within the Games programme: instead, netballing nations in the region will use the Pacific Series, to be held in Papua New Guinea, as preparation for the 2011 World Championships.

England defenders Sonia Mkoloma and Geva Mentor have this week confirmed that they will not represent their country at the 2011 World Championships, after committing themselves to next year’s ANZ Championships. This decision rules them out of selection for the England team for next year’s competition, after England’s national selectors agreed to only consider players competing in the UK for the World Championships side.

As the ANZ Championship starts the build up to its fourth season, teams have already named their squads for the 2011 competition. Mkoloma will return to line up with the NSW Swifts for the second year in succession, while Mentor has been a controversial signing for the Melbourne Vixens. A new ruling, allowing each side in the competition only one import player, meant that the Adelaide Thunderbirds could not sign the English star as well as 2010’s shooting revelation, Jamaican Carla Borrego, despite making an appeal to the competition’s organising committee. Meanwhile, West Coast Fever has signed the youngest ever player for the competition, Courtney Bruce, and another 16 year old, Madeleine Proud joins the reigning champions, Adelaide Thunderbirds. For full team lists and player movements, please visit www.anz-championship.com. The 2011 Season starts on 13 February 2011.

Finally, netball continues to extend its influence in Asia, with a group of expats now involved in coaching and playing in Korea. Introduced to the country in 2001, the game is now played in many schools, but with the arrival of a number of Australian and New Zealand players, the Korean Netball Association now has the ability to co-odinate training sessions and a Tuesday night netball league has been introduced for the first time. For further information, please email netballkorea@hotmail.com

Friday, 10 September 2010

South Africa and Botswana have qualified to participate in the World Netball Championships in Singapore next year, after finishing first and second at this week’s African qualifying games played at the University of Pretoria. They will be joined there by Malawi, automatic qualifiers as a result of being in the top five in the last World Netball Championships in 2007. The South African side did not lose a match during the week-long competition, while Botswana’s only loss was to the Proteas. Zimbabwe ended in third place, with Namibia fourth, Tanzania fifth and Lesotho sixth respectively.

Towering 6” 5’ shooter Jhanelle Fowler (pictured above) will make her international tournament debut at the Commonwealth Games after being named in Jamaica’s side for the competition. Fowler, who achieved her first international cap in the recent test series against England, is named for the world number four side alongside two other new faces with limited international experience – mid court player Kimone Tulloch and goal attack Anna Kay Griffith. The remainder of the squad features a number of Commonwealth and World Championships veterans, including Georgia Gordon, who featured in Jamaica’s bronze medal-winning team in 2003 and Kasey Evering, who returns after a three year injury lay off, and will be captained by Simone Forbes. Others named for the competition are: Nicole Aitken, Romelda Aitken, Nadine Bryan, Althea Byfield, Sasher-Gaye Henry and Paula Thompson. The side completed its preparations for the Commonwealth Games with a 52-45 victory over world number three England, after losing the first game of the series between the two 53-42.

Reigning world champions Australia take an important psychological advantage into the Commonwealth Games, after taking the first Constellation Cup against world number two New Zealand with a thrilling 46-40 win in the final match of the series between the two nations. Tied at 31 all at the end of three quarters, both teams gave their all in a roller-coaster final quarter but it was the Diamonds, inspired by strong performances from captain Sharelle McMahon and WD Renae Hallinan, who pulled away to edge the win.

Vanuatu played host to the first visit of a delegation from the Pacific Netball Partnership during early August. Anne Marie Phippard from Netball Australia, Briar Martindale from Netball New Zealand and Martin Roberts from the Australian Sports Commission made up the delegation which attended a variety of meetings with players, club officials, local netball associations and the government during their visit. A test match and demonstration training sessions planned for the visit had to be cancelled due to poor weather and a tsunami warning, but these were held at a later date and video footage has been provided to the delegation for comment and feedback. It has also been confirmed that Vanuatu’s U21 side will host Western Australian club side the South East Demons for a three match test series in late October.

Finally, a group of care home residents in England has formed what could be the world’s oldest netball team. The Golden Oldies side, from Warrington in Cheshire, has an average age of 90 and oldest player Olive Cook is 101. Formed to provide variety in weekly activity sessions, the team trains twice a week and is now seeking other care home teams to play matches against.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Netball Australia and Netball New Zealand have unveiled a new trophy, the Constellation Cup, which will be awarded each year to the country that wins the most international tests between the Australian Diamonds and the New Zealand Silver Ferns. Designed and made by artists on both sides of the Tasman, the trophy will be presented for the first time by Sir Anand Satyanand, New Zealand’s Governor General, at the conclusion of the third test of this year’s series between the two nations in Auckland on Sunday, 5 September. Picture shows Sharelle McMahon (Australia) and Casey Williams (NZ) with the new Constellation Cup

The teams go into the third test tied at one match each. Australia held their nerve and their form to come from behind and edge past the Ferns in the first test, played in Adelaide, winning 48-43. However, the Ferns stormed out of the blocks at the start of the second game of the series, and could not be caught, taking a relatively easy win 59-40.

Coaching arrangements for Tanzania’s Taifa Queens remain uncertain as former Australian international Simone McKinnis has still not had her appointment as national coach confirmed. Despite receiving the sanction of the Tanzanian president, McKinnis has not yet received her contract and written confirmation of her new role. The team had hoped she would be in place to train the side ahead of the Africa Netball Championships, which take place from 5-12 September in South Africa, which will act as the regional qualification tournament for the 2011 World Netball Championships.

The Africa Netball Championships sees a record 11 countries fighting for 2 places to the WNC2011: Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Malawi has already qualified for WNC2011.

IFNA and Africa Netball are taking the opportunity of the Regional Tournament to run some workshops for the African Members. IFNA Global Development Manager, Sarah Pickford and long standing supporter of Africa, Liz Broomhead are heading out to Johannesburg. The workshops will be chaired by IFNA Africa Regional Development Manager, Joan Smit and delegates from all the African countries above will be in attendance.

Netball continues to expand in northern Europe, with the first Stockholm International tournament taking place last week. Eight teams from Belgium, Denmark, Sweden and Switzerland took part, with Copehnhagen Netball Club finishing the tournament undefeated, with a convincing 24-4 win over Stockholm in the Grand Final. Congratulations to all those who took part.

Reigning world champions, the Australian Diamonds announced their Commonwealth Games squad this week, with three players – Kate Beveridge, Madison Browne and Amy Steel - dropped from the group which contested test matches against Jamaica last month. The Australian squad is: Sharelle McMahon (captain), Rebecca Bulley, Catherine Cox, Susan Fuhrmann, Laura Geitz, Renae Hallinan, Mo’onia Gerrard, Kimberlee Green, Natalie Medhurst, Lauren Nourse, Susan Pratley, Natalie von Bertouch.

The Jamaica Netball Association (JNA) has celebrated two new sponsorship agreements this week, the first a J$1million agreement with Pepsi-Cola Jamaica, through its Gatorade Brand: the deal also includes provision of Gatorade and Aqua Essential water for the team’s training camps and tournaments, as well as assisting with the construction of a study room at the JNA training house. Local light and power company Jamaica Public Service (JPS) has also donated a team bus to the Association, to be used to transport the teams from training sessions and matches in their build up to the 2011 World Championships and beyond.

The team bus was used for the first time this week, to take the Sunshine Girls to the first match in the Sunshine Series, against world number three England, as both teams continue their build ups towards the Delhi Commonwealth Games. Despite trying several new combinations, the Jamaicans could not match the pace and consistency of the English visitors, with England easing through to a 53-42 victory. The second match between the two takes place this evening (Friday).