By Tamica Garnett
After starting out with a squad of 30 players, the Guyana Netball Association (GNA) national senior team has finally determined who will be its final 12 players to compete in a commercial competition in Barbados in September.
The team began an extensive training programme in the last quarter of 2009 and has been gearing up under the guidance of two coaches, Randolph Critchlow and Lawrence Kellman.
This will be the first competition that the team will take part in since it was formed last year. The GNA has not had a national senior team since the dissolution of the last national team in 2006. According to Critchlow, the last overseas competition that a senior netball team participated in was the World Qualifiers in 2006.
Critchlow stated that this competition will be used as a launching point for the team.
“We are basically in a rebuilding mode right now. This year is seen more or less as a developmental year and we are using this commercial tournament as a launching point,” Critchlow stated.
“This is to tune up our players and allow them to get some experience, so that when we do get to the world trials we have a team that would do us proud.”
This upcoming competition will be used mainly as a venture for the revived team to get some competitive exposure.
Critchlow stressed that the venture was just about getting the exposure as the team’s ultimate goal is getting active on the world stage.
“The idea is to keep a core group of players together. Barbados is not the long-term goal, the long-term goal is to get them on the world stage so after Barbados we are looking to include some more players in the hopes of getting the best team to represent us at the world trials,” Critchlow stated.
The coach said that the team was aiming to compete in the next World Qualifiers which will next take place in 2012.
Critchlow disclosed that one of the initial concerns in reviving a national senior team was finding players for such a team, and though they started out with an ample number, he admitted that not many of the players were committed, and players began to drop out as time went by.
“Of course the biggest challenge was players and getting the amount we needed and thankfully we got enough at the beginning but then persons were slowly dropping out,” Critchlow stated. With the acquisition of a settled team, Critchlow related that the next challenge is the lack of competition.
In Guyana the predominantly female sport does not attract a lot of players and this limits the number of teams available for the national team to compete against.
“One of our biggest problems is that we basically have a problem finding people for them to compete against,” Critchlow explained.
“And in order to fully assess their performance we need to find competition for them, and that is one of our biggest hindrances right now.”
This was reiterated by Kellman, who also added that the lack of competition would often lead to frustration and a drop in morale for the players.
“Some of them feel a bit disappointed over not being able to play against their level of competition. They could play against the lesser nationals, the under-16 team, and they’ll be able to try their strategy but in terms of real competition with people in their level of ability that is not there,” Kellman stated.
Nevertheless, based on their performance during their training Critchlow says he can deduce that the skill level of the players was progressing fairly well.
“But if I were to assess their performance I’d say they are fierce and we’re slowly moving towards where we need to be and come September we will be there doing our best,” Critchlow said.
Though the team contains none of the previous players, Critchlow assured that the team still portrayed quality experience. Identifying some of their most promising players, Critchlow indicated that team captain Michelle Subrattie, playing center, has shown great potential.
The team will also depend on the dexterity of vice captain Melissa Meusa, who plays goal keeper, and on goal attack Kristy Roberts, goal defence Esther Henry, and goal shooter Tamika McEwan
Additionally, former junior nationals, Roberts and Shonnette Eswick, no longer eligible for the junior team due to age, have transitioned to the senior team, and according to Critchlow they were two of the better players on the junior team.
“It is a fresh group of players, it is a younger team. A lot of the players have been playing for many years now, but basically the idea we were working with is to get a younger fresher team to carry the vision and goal.”
Meanwhile on the local scene, the GNA is working towards the hosting of its annual senior tournament and is hopeful of holding this at the end of August.