Jamaica coach to play against Silver Ferns to make up numbers

Connie Francis

Jamaica have finalised their squad for the Taini Jamison series against the Silver Ferns less than 12 hours from the first Test with coach Connie Francis coming out of retirement to complete the roster.

In a statement this morning, Netball Jamaica shared their side of the wild build-up to this week's series which they described as "severe logistical issues".

“This situation is very unusual and, not desirable," said President of Netball Jamaica Tricia Robinson.

"But we believe that we must honour our obligations. The coaches and the players have been advised of the challenges and are on board to give of their best, even if they have to play without reserves.

"Netball New Zealand has also been made aware and have been extremely supportive as together we try to minimise the impact of the changes."

As part of several visa and flight issues, only seven players from the 12 originally named have managed to make it to New Zealand for the series, leaving Jamaica with the bare minimum to play a match.

Netball NZ and Jamaica Netball advised yesterday that 2003 World Cup player Carla Borrego had been called in from Australia for the series but this morning they confirmed the final two members of the squad: Romelda Aiken George and now-player/coach Francis.

Francis, who is in her late 50s, has played five World Netball Championships for Jamaica between 1986 and 2003 while George, 33, joins the side from Australia where she has been playing Super Netball until last season, although she only announced the arrival of her baby, Gianna, five weeks ago.

The late additions come after Jamaica were slow to announce their initial squad for the series earlier this month - an issue their governing body said stemmed from their "intense" Commonwealth Games campaign where they won a historic silver medal.

"Five players did not get medical clearance, as they were either suffering from long-standing injuries that were aggravated or had sustained new injuries during the Games," Netball Jamaica said.

"Consequently, only three senior players were available for the tour - Adean Thomas, Shimona Nelson and Latanya Wilson. In a two-day selection exercise, additional players were identified to complete the 12-member team.

"The team, however, required visas to travel to New Zealand and through the USA. With time running out, Netball Jamaica sought the assistance of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs through the Ministry of Sports. Thanks to this intervention, the visas to enter New Zealand were all issued by Monday, September 12 and passports and documentation were received on Friday, September 16.

"The visa woes were unfortunately still not over, as five of the newly selected players were without a US visa and there was not enough time to complete this application process. Efforts to use alternate routes did not materialise."

Tonight's first of two back-to-back Tests starts at 7:30pm at Eventfinda Stadium in Auckland.


More Stories