Netball: Youth backed to cover tall targets

By Kris Shannon

Romelda Aiken isn't playing tonight. Photo / photosport.nz
Romelda Aiken isn't playing tonight. Photo / photosport.nz

Leaving behind their two best players hardly seems like sound strategy for Jamaica to break their duck in New Zealand.

But coach Minneth Reynolds believes selecting a youthful and inexperienced squad will help her side beat the Silver Ferns - eventually.

Given shooters Romelda Aiken and Jhaniele Fowler-Reid will both be watching when the three-test series begins tonight in Nelson, that result is unlikely to be achieved over the next week.

Yet Reynolds, in explaining the wisdom behind the pair's omission, insisted Jamaica's young talent will emerge stronger from being thrown in the deep end.

"We are not trying to make a statement - we are just focusing on rebuilding our squad," the coach told Radio Sport.

"After the world championships, quite a few players left us, so it's a pretty young squad. Our main focus is on giving these girls some international exposure for the future.

"We have been training together since February but it's not going to happen overnight - it's going to take some time. So playing against the Silver Ferns will definitely give these girls an opportunity to put their skills to the test."

The absence of Aiken and Fowler-Reid, who between them boast more than 100 caps for the national team, leaves Jamaica short of both experience and, crucially, height.

Reynolds conceded her squad possessed no player who could match the height of the 1.96m Aiken or the 1.98m Fowler-Reid, especially since rumours that Jamaica would include Marvadene Anderson failed to come to fruition.

The college basketballer, potentially the tallest sportswoman in the world at 2.12m, would certainly have offered the tourists an imposing presence in the shooting circle. Instead, Jamaica will have to work harder for their scoring opportunities.

"When [Aiken and Fowler-Reid] are playing for us, it's so easy because they're tall targets and it's easy to get the ball to them," Reynolds said. "We have shorter shooters, which means they have to do a lot of movement to get that ball into the goal circle."

That will be the job of Shantal Slater and Vanessa Walker, two former under-21 shooters who will spearhead the unenviable task of toppling the Silver Ferns on their own courts for the first time.

"It's important for us to introduce new players, because eventually the old ones will leave us," Reynolds said. "So we need to be grooming new players to take over. It's a very inexperienced squad but a lot is expected of them. They are anxious and eager to go out there and give it their best."

- NZ Herald

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