Sports

5th place was not the birthday gift Fowler expected, but...

BY SANJAY MYERS
Senior staff reporter
Myerss@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

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LIVERPOOL, England — Birthday girl Jhaniele Fowler says Jamaica's fifth-placed showing at the Netball World Cup was not the gift she had envisaged heading into the tournament, but one she had to cling onto at the climax of a disheartening campaign.

The superstar goal shooter, who turned 30 on Sunday's final day of competition, was left to contest a consolation play-off match against Malawi, instead of featuring in the blue ribbon championship match or the bronze medal clash.

The setback did not affect her impact on the court.

Fowler missed only one effort while scoring 53 goals, as the Sunshine Girls outplayed ninth-ranked Malawi 68-50 inside M&S Bank Arena.

“It [the victory] was an okay present but I didn't want that [place fifth]. I wanted a medal for my birthday, but unfortunately I got fifth and that's fine,” she told journalists afterwards.

The Jamaicans — entering the World Cup rated second in the world behind Australia — were widely tipped to win their first medal at the tournament since 2007.

They won six of eight matches, but a shattering loss to world number five South Africa, followed by defeat to third-ranked England a day later, saw their hopes unravel swiftly. The Sunshine Girls fell short of the semi-finals for the first time since 1995.

The Jamaica captain said she was encouraged by the resolve and commitment shown by the team, even when it was clear that a consolation prize was all Jamaica had left to play for.

“Overall it was a bittersweet tournament. We came here to finish on the podium, but to see how we pulled through and held our heads high, nonetheless, was really good. That was the next best thing, so we had to hold our heads up and take it with pride,” she explained.

Fowler, who plays professionally in Australia, is considered one of the best goal shooters in the world.

From an individual standpoint, she was imperious throughout the tournament, shooting at an accuracy rate close to 100 per cent in most matches.

In the 48-56 defeat to England, she sank all 43 attempts, setting a record for the first 100 per cent shooting performance from a netball player involved in all 60 minutes of a match.

“To be honest, I feel pretty good knowing that my accuracy was on point. I wish that was enough though, to bring us over [the line]. I'm happy with regard to my shooting accuracy,” she reiterated, suggesting that she could have been more proactive in areas other than shooting.

The Sunshine Girls skipper said her teammates played no small part in contributing to her outstanding displays.

“The supply of the ball came in a lot. Some were good, some were bad but we had to try to make it work. We have to fight for our teammates just as how they were out there fighting for me, so yeah, they did well,” she said.

Reluctant to delve into details of what might have affected the unit off the court, Fowler doubled down on prior views she made public regarding the significance of post-tournament analyses to dissect where things fell apart when so much was expected.

“I think a review is needed, and as soon as they [Netball Jamaica] make the review, hopefully, it will be to the betterment of the team. And [hope that] when they move forward the team will grow stronger.

“It has amounted to a number of things that caused us to possibly not perform at our best. I'm lost for words at the moment, but a lot of things caused where we are at the moment, so we have to just go back and hopefully fix the things that caused us to be where we are,” she noted.

The veteran player said leading the team throughout a rocky campaign is one that tested her mettle.

“As a leader things will happen and you have to be strong to pull your team together. You have to be one to stand tall and make sure that everyone else is doing what they have to do to the best that they can do it,” Fowler explained.


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