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Netball from around the World
Botswana's netballers received a timely boost to their World Championships preparations this week, ahead of this weekend's tri-nations competition to be held in Gaborone. The Botswana Netball Association has announced an increased sponsorship package for the national squad of BP150,000 (approx $23,500US) from Motor Centre Botswana, which will assist in funding the team's build up to the Singapore competition. The money will also be used to support the country's U21 side, which is preparing for the Confederation of South African Netball Association competition, to be played in Namibia later this year (picture shows Botswana – in light blue – in action during the 2010 Cosana competition).
World number three England were shocked by a fierce fight back in the last period of the first test against Jamaica in Kingston, letting slip a four goal lead at three quarter time to go down 57-56 to the fourth-ranked home side. The second test takes place in Kingston tonight (Thursday) with the final game on Saturday and while both teams are currently without key personnel who are playing in the ANZ Championships, taking a winning psychological advantage into the Singapore World Championships will be of prime importance to both coaches.
Netball Fiji has announced that the coaching duties for the national squad are to be shared in the run up to the Singapore World Championships, with Gabriel Qoro and Una Rokoura taking personal responsibility for specific areas of training. Fiji's national selectors made the decision after the side's recent tour of Australia and hope that it will ensure the team (currently touring New Zealand) will be better prepared for the World Championships.
Four of the five nominees for the ANZ Championship young player of the year award have now been named: 19 year old Kayla Cullen of the Northern Mystics is nominated for the second year in a row, along with Ashleigh Brazill (NSW Swifts), Chelsea Pitman (Queensland Firebirds) and Sulu Tone-Fitzpatrick (Waikato BOP Magic). The final nominee will be announced during this weekend's round of matches and the winner announced during the Grand Final week in May.
With only one round of the regular ANZ Championship season remaining, only two sides have confirmed their place in the play offs. The Mission Foods Queensland Firebirds withstood a spirited performance from the West Coast Fever to maintain their unbeaten position at the top of the table 56-54, while the Waikato BOP Magic were impressive in overcoming last season's champions the Adelaide Thunderbirds 55-36 and both are now assured of their spot in the final weeks of the competition. However, behind them, three teams are left to fight it out for the remaining two play off places – the Melbourne Vixens, Sydney Swifts and Northern Mystics are tied on points, and with the Vixens and Swifts facing off against each other in Melbourne in the final round of matches, a win for the Northern Mystics away to the Southern Steel could propel the New Zealand side into their first ANZ Championship finals series.
Thilaka Jinabasa from Sri Lanka has arrived in Brunei to take up her position as the country's new national netball coach. Jinabasa, who was appointed by Brunei's Ministry for Culture Youth and Sport to improve the standards of netball played across the country, as well as focusing on the national squad's performances, is targetting 2013 for Brunei's first appearance in international competitions.
Australia's selectors have named the country's U21 squad for 2011 which will tour New Zealand in June. Eight of the athletes named have moved up from last year's U19 team, while the defensive group features four players - Chanel Gomez (West Coast Fever), April Letton (Queensland Firebirds), Kate Shimmin (Adelaide Thunderbirds) and Micaela Wilson (Melbourne Vixens) – who have gained ANZ Championship experience this season, along with Maddy Proud (Adelaide Thunderbirds) and Ameliaranne Wells (Queensland Firebirds). The remainder of the squad, which will play a three match test series against its New Zealand counter parts, is: Shannon Eagland, Sarah East, Nicola Gray, Stephanie Puopolo, Verity Simmons and Stephanie Wood.
Finally Anderson High School from the remote Shetland Islands are celebrating this week, after scooping the Open Gold Scottish Schools Netball cup, defeating Holy Cross High School from Hamilton 43-29. Congratulations to them.
For more information about netball around the world, visit the IFNA website at www.netball.org