Netball is back in Manchester. But this time it’s with a difference, as Manchester Thunder took on Jamaica’s Sunshine Girls at the Wright Robinson in the build up to the Netball World Cup. On the day after the International Netball Federation announced that Jamaica have moved up the world rankings to 2nd, Thunder were put through their paces in their first outing since ‘that’ Superleague Final win.
Thunder started brightly, with an early turnover on Jamaica’s centre pass they managed to bag three goals back to back. But the International giants were soon back in the running and it wasn’t long before they overtook Thunder. Displaying plenty of skill with first time World Cup selectee Shamera Sterling, as well as experience in the form of Jhaniele Fowler, who scored an incredible 783 goals for her Australian Suncorp Super League team, West Coast Fever, last season.
Thunder held their own, Jamaica scored 20 goals in the first quarter, no mean feat. Although Thunder were missing mid-court maestro Liana Leota and shooting staple Kathryn Turner due to illness, Laura Malcolm and Eleonar Cardwell looked sharp in their place. Alongside experienced defensive duo Emma Dovey and Kerry Almond, it was still a strong Thunder line up, showcasing proving that signature strength in depth that was so often mentioned in the 2019 Superleague season.
The occasion also saw the return of shooter Amy Clinton, who returned to her roots and donned the black and yellow dress to make a special guest appearance for Thunder. She put out an impressive display, shooting from range and dinking shots in from under the post. Along with Cardwell, who scored some absolute beauties herself, Thunder weren’t short of goal opportunities.
The second quarter played out much like the first, with Thunder getting off to a solid start. But, aside from that short spell in the opening minutes of the match, Thunder never took the lead again. Jamaica let Thunder get close only to then punish their mistakes and stretch out a lead. But it was clear that the match wasn’t about winning or losing. Head Coach Karen Greig took the occasion as an opportunity to rotate her squad and give some game time to the full twelve. Training partners Paige Kindred, Maria McAndrew, Ally Thomas and Elia McCormick all enjoyed a spell on court.
Jamaica took advantage of an opportunity for some squad rotation too. With appearances from seasoned World Cup veteran Romelda Aiken and Celtic Dragons star Stacian Facey. It was the third quarter where Jamaica really put their mark on this match. Huge looping passes into the shooting circle found Aiken, who towered over Thunder’s defence at six foot four. Another 20 goals to the tally.
Jamaica only looked to capitalise in the final quarter. Scoring another massive 20 goals, their shooting prowess was evident throughout. Jamaica quashed any hopes of a Thunder comeback early doors, despite the Black and Yellows tenacity, it was a tall order.
But tonight was not about the scoreline. It was simply about a showcase of fantastic Netball, and Manchester playing host to it. With the Netball World Cup imminent, it was a superb glimpse into what we can expect from the Jamaicans in Liverpool. Speed, power and stamina. Not forgetting a heap of support from the crowd and a coolness and composure that was evident in every player who featured.
Jamaica have finished fourth at the previous two World Cups, but with the INF’s announcement as a boost, and a confident performance against the reigning Superleague Champions, they will really fancy their chances this year.
Thunder will face England Roses on Saturday 6th July and Australia on Sunday 7th July for their second and third chance to take on the world. Tickets are sold out for the England match but there is still some availability to watch Thunder take on the Aussie Diamonds at Belle Vue. Tickets available here >> https://manchesterthunder.ticketline.co.uk/order/gateway/13347040
Photo credit: Mark Pritchard
Thunder: Clinton, Cardwell, Malcolm, Carter, Airey, Dovey, Almond
Jamaica: Sterling, Facey, V Williams, Thomas, K Williams, Beckford, Fowler