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REGIONAL NETBALL TOURNAMENT 'LOSES OUT' TO COMMONWEALTH GAMES

The Barbados Netball Association (BNA) has its eyes focused on the bigger picture.

And it should not come as a surprise that the national senior netball team opted out of the Regional Netball Championships said BNA president, Nisha Craigwell, who is also second in command as vice president of the Caribbean Netball Association (CNA).

President of the Barbados Netball Association,
Nisha Craigwell. (Picture by Morissa Lindsay)

Both Jamaica and Barbados have pulled out of the regional netball tournament amid suspicions that they did so for fear of dropping their ranking positions if their lost games in the tournament. Both teams have already qualified for the Commonwealth Games next year in Australia. Qualification for the Games is based on rankings.

Since 1998 when netball was incorporated into the Commonwealth programme, Barbados has always qualified and Craigwell made it clear to Barbados TODAY that she did not intend under her watch for the ultra-marine, gold and black flag not to be represented at the Commonwealth Games next April in the Gold Coast, Australia.

Additionally, she explained that even though the association was cash-strapped, because netball was a Commonwealth sport, the Barbados Olympic Association would fund 98 percent of the cost for next year’s games, which will reduce their burden significantly in that area.

And what will boost the senior Gems’ chances even further is a chance to train on the newly constructed netball surface at the Sir Garfield Sobers Gymnasium currently under renovation but expected to open in time for CARIFESTA this month.

“I am so glad to hear the Minister [Stephen Lashley] saying that the Wildey Gymnasium is outfitted with a floor that is ready for netball. So I am hoping now that the gymnasium has been renovated, that we can get in there before March next year to actually begin practising on the floor. But outside of that we need competition before leaving for Commonwealth. I don’t want a situation where we go to the Commonwealth Games and have not played any practice games,” Craigwell said.

The competition is catered to the top 12 teams in the world and Barbados gained qualification to the Commonwealth Games after they jumped two places higher in the International Netball Federation world rankings at position number 11. A few weeks ago the Bajan Gems pulled off thrilling victories against Trinidad and Tobago, who slipped two places down the rankings to position 13. The Gems also played outstandingly against Jamaica, the highest ranked Caribbean team at position number four in the world. Jamaica’s Sunshine Girls were actually beaten for the very first time in 35 years by the Bajans in a three match series that ended 1-1.

Just before the cutoff date on July 1 to qualify for the Commonwealth Games, Barbados also played Northern Ireland to improve their rankings but lost twice. However, interestingly enough, Barbados with a tally of 100 are a point and one place below Ireland in tenth place with 101.

The regional netball championship, which has been non-existent for at least a decade, saw the withdrawal of powerhouses Jamaica, Barbados and Grenada and subsequently the postponement of the competition that was scheduled for August 20 to 26 in St Lucia.

Even though Craigwell declined to comment as vice president of CNA on those matters, she did say Barbados stated its position from the beginning.

“Barbados made it quite clear from the inception since March [of this year] that we could not commit fully even though we are expressing an interest to play [at the Caribbean Netball Championship] because holistically our finances, unless we had a Godfather that steps forward very early, we knew that it would have been a challenge for us. Of course if the finances were available we would not turn away any type of competition because we are normally competition starved and as long as we get the opportunity to play, we welcome it with open arms.

“For years we have been playing Jamaica and we were being beaten by Jamaica. This is the first time in 35 years that Barbados has ever beaten Jamaica. So it is not that we are running from the tournament, as I would have heard. It has nothing to do with revenge, nothing like that, from a financial point of view we simply did not have the money and we still don’t have the money.

“Had it been scheduled prior to July 1, we would have make it but because it fell after July, we had to go elsewhere to seek competition in terms of playing. We would have had enough games because both Jamaica and Trinidad would have participated along with other countries that would have given us enough points to qualify and therefore we would not have had to seek competition elsewhere. But because the tournament fell in August, it does not matter as it relates to Commonwealth and we (BNA) had to make the wise decision to make sure that Barbados qualify,” Craigwell said.

On Tuesday Netball Jamaica said that they took the decision to withdraw from the tournament because it would be of little benefit to the country’s netball programme, and there would be the potential loss of ranking points for the Sunshine Girls.

“The tournament would involve teams that have not yet attained rating points, and teams that currently hold less than 100 points. Consultations were also held with the players, coaching staff and the technical committee of Netball Jamaica.”

Netball Jamaica added: “The review presented revealed that participation would result in a loss of five rating points. Jamaica currently has a world ranking of fourth, which is based on a rating of 149. The country that is ranked third has a rating of 159, while the fifth ranked has attained a rating of 137.”

It was suggested that even if Jamaica won every match played during the regional tournament, it could still lose five rating points and widen the gap between itself and England, who are third in the world, to 15 points. At the same time, it would narrow the difference in rating points between Jamaica and South Africa currently ranked at fifth from 13 to eight.

But yesterday in a statement the International Netball Federation (INF) reiterated that winning a match always improved a team’s ratings while losing to a team with a lower rating meant fewer points.

The INF stated that a team would get more points for beating an opponent with a high rating and fewer points for losing to a team with a low rating.

The federation outlined that only two factors contributed to ranking points – the result of the match and the opponent against whom the result was achieved. 

“No account is taken of margin of victory, venue, importance of the match, nor the winner of the series – all internationals are treated as stand-alone events.

“The impact of any win/loss on your ranking will depend on how your new rating compares with the ratings of the teams around you,” the INF added.

It further explained that: “If a team wins a match they will earn 50 points more than their opponent’s rating. But if they lose, they will earn 50 points less than their opponent’s rating.”

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