Over the past weekend I had the opportunity to meet Moira, Karin, Bryony, and Paula, all members of the Gibraltar Netball National Team set up who have all been instrumental in various capacities towards staging this coming weekends tournament. Whether that be in the staging of the event, the coaching of the players, being an active member of the squad, or analysing the opposition to try and find weaknesses that can be exploited.
It is clear that everybody is on the same page on and off of the court, and it’s outstanding how they all have a deep appreciation for each others role as integral within the set-up.
All of them speak with an infectious enthusiasm of the game, where they aren’t looking at the events of this weekend as an end game, but rather as another positive step in the development and progression of the sport in Gibraltar.
The ambition of the team is huge, and it was hard to mask the disappointment that this weekends competition does not involve both divisions. Unfortunately with the timing of the Commonwealth Games meant the committee was left in a position where the Home Nations would need more than 2 and half weeks to recover, which Moira rues as she tells me that “it would have been mega, mega, mega, exciting had England made it here”, but she doesn’t see it as an opportunity lost, she remains confident that they will eventually get here.
When asked what a successful campaign would be, it is interesting that it is not simply the results on the court that matter, of course Gibraltar will want to make a statement on the court and improve their rankings, based on where Gibraltar is we do not have competition that is easily accessible, and this is a yearly occasion to improve the teams ranking.
This is also an opportunity to make a statement off the court.
This is a chance to show that Gibraltar has the ability and is capable to compete with the elite Home Nations in hosting the big competitions, and to include a quote Moira was adamant that I include, “We would really love to, make sure you put this in, host the World Youth (Netball Championships). That would be the best of the best. Because we’re ambitious, and I’m sure we will deliver.”
Netball has bloomed as a sport in recent years, with the Super League being shown on Sky, it has now been given a platform where people who may have not had much knowledge in the past are now being exposed to it on a more mainstream scale, and now have an opportunity to sit up and take notice, and they hope that this will open the door for everyone.
With that the future is bright, Paula who is part of the Under 21 set-up is an aspiring performance analyst, and has been given an opportunity to work with the national side, which assists with her studies, and bring her knowledge and education into the game.
Performance analysis has become such a critical part of the modern game in so many sports, the capability to understand and improve your own players, whilst breaking down the weaknesses of an opposition for your own advantage is such a key element towards success.
She has analysed some of the upcoming opponents, and the team will be hoping her thorough examinations will give them information that could prove decisive on the court.
Paula believes that if all goes well in her studies, and if the opportunities are there, then she does see this as a long term career opportunity.
In the middle of our conversation the new kit is delivered, and it’s another thing checked off the list, and you get the feeling that it’s all coming together nicely.
They reveal to me plans for the development of the younger teams is of fundamental importance, with camps set up in St Andrews for the U15s, which they may only be learning about for the first time through reading this, and they see now as a vital time for Gibraltar.
“We need to move on with technology. Not just netball, Gibraltar in general, if they want to compete and be at the same level as the elite.”
“Having more man power to bring up the younger players from scratch, so we can go further down and pick them up quicker. The younger they are the easier they’ll come into the style of the game.”
It’s incredible the dedication, energy, and time that is being applied to ensuring that the sport is not just a success now, but in the future, and those involved in the sport should be extremely proud of the work that they do, and for the opportunity they give to the youth.
Asked if they could make one immediate improvement to progress the game, the answer wasn’t what most might ask for, it was simply more competition. Not necessarily to travel for it, but to just have the opportunity to bring in club teams, senior teams who compete at a top level to provide them with appropriate matches in preparation for the seniors.
Where they do have good, intense league matches, they become familiar with their opposition and begin to have an understanding in advance of what the opponents strengths and weaknesses are, and to continue to improve the opposition needs to be fresh, and with fresh opposition comes the opportunity to interact with different coaches, and different ideas in how to evolve the game.
We at Giblad wish them the best of luck at weekend, and with their future plans.
They start their first match this Thursday, with a 6pm start against Israel.
Let’s show up in the numbers to show them our support.
For the full list of fixtures click here.