THE 2015 BARBADOS NETBALL ASSOCIATION’S (BNA) season has begun with a bang with a spectacular opening ceremony and a Saturday night of knockout finals which have certainly whetted the appetite of the returning throng of fans.
While kudos must be given to president Nisha Craigwell and her staff as well as the president of the Barbados Association of Netball Umpires (BANU), Carmeta Doughlin, for raising the standard of officiating and netball overall as well as Julie Phillips and her team in the recent under 16 success in St Lucia, netball still has a lot more to pursue.
Kudos must be given to the UWI Blackbirds, who won their first major title, the Little League Gym senior knockout, with a controlled victory over the deposed queens, Pine Hill St Barnabas.
Credit must also be given to returning Division One team Spooners Hill, who also defeated St Barnabas in the intermediate knockout finals, with former Barbados shooter Lydia Bishop showing that she had taken a premature retirement from national duty.
However, if the BNA wants to capitalise on the rising interest of the old and new fans and possible sponsors, the association must get with the times in every sense.
Most of the netball rules are not spectator friendly, and the arbitrary application of those rules by different and diffident individuals does not help the situation.
Since BANU can only continue to train those officials in order to bring some level of consistency and since the BNA cannot amend or adjust the international rules to play at their domestic level, Craigwell and company must make what advancements they can to enhance the local product.
The most glaring omission from the local netball arena is a time clock and electronic scoreboard.
Close games in the past were spoiled because of discrepancies with the scores and or the time. With greater parity existing between the present Division One teams of Blackbirds, St Barnabas, CO Williams Rangers, Spooners Hill and Brittons Hill, the players, officials and, significantly, the fans must be able to keep track of the official time and scores.
It is archaic for a timekeeper to be getting up to count down the last ten seconds which can be done at a pace as determined by the individual.
An electronic scoreboard would keep everyone involved and enhance the excitement of the last minutes for the players and spectators.
Craigwell has indicated that her association is actively pursuing such a clock which has been priced around $5 000.
A sponsor can achieve a great coup by helping the BNA to acquire that clock and getting their name attached for an agreed period where hundreds of eyes would be focused on their name every night of netball.
The BNA should also pay attention to the Blackbirds, who have established a club and, as seen in the finals, can attract the best of the country to have a bench of Jaleesa Lovell, Rhea Bryant, Jahlesal Brathwaite and Mechell Liburd, who can start on any of the other four Division One teams but who were not needed to dethrone St Barnabas.