Monday, 11 October 2010

Netball Around the World

Despite concerns before the start about safety and construction issues, the Delhi Commonwealth Games is now under way. And for five netballers, the glittering opening ceremony, held in front of a capacity crowd, was a particularly significant event, as they were all chosen to carry their national flags into the stadium.

Sharelle McMahon (pictured against India), who is competing in her fourth Commonwealth Games, led out the Australian team, while Laurel Browne carried the flag for Barbados. Jamaica’s Simone Forbes, who has represented her country in five sports – basketball, football, softball and volleyball – was chosen to lead out the island’s athletes. Irene van Dyk, who became the most capped Silver Fern of all time in her second game of the competition, marched at the head of the New Zealand athletes and the perennial Mary Waya, one of the oldest netball competitors at 42 years of age, beamed her way round the track as the leader of the Malawi contingent.

On court, competition newcomers India have found the going tough, with Australia handing out a record breaking 113-18 to the home nation in the pool matches. The Indians, playing in their first Commonwealth Games competition, could not cope with the pace and power of the Diamonds, and despite the crowd cheering every successful path, found the gap in class too huge to bridge. Meanwhile, reigning Commonwealth champions New Zealand also broke the century with a 102-21 win over Papua New Guinea, but were made to battle from behind to defeat England in their group 47-41 having trailed at half time. Pool matches continue this weekend, before the play offs start at the beginning of next week, with the medal matches scheduled for Thursday (14 October).

Despite their international baptism of fire, Indian netballers have cause for celebration this week, after Australia’s sports minister Mark Arbib this week launched a RS 200 million programme ($4.5 million US) aimed at developing sports facilities across India for disadvantaged children. IFNA’s GOAL programme, which provides regular training and match play for more than 1000 girls and young women across the country, was cited at the launch event as an example of how sport can make significant differences at the grass roots and it is hoped that the new programme will allow GOAL to expand its reach still further.

Finally, Netball Namibia has announced its first national training camp of 2010, to take place in October. The camp, to last for two days, will allow the national senior and U21 sides to prepare for the Six Nations Cup and African Youth Games, to take place in Singapore and Swaziland respectively later this year.

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