Saturday, April 20, 2024

Blackbirds fly coop

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Netball will have new league queens in a season that has been plagued with interruptions and uncertainty.

Double crown queens UWI Blackbirds, who have dominated local netball for the past three seasons, have withdrawn from the Division 1 league.

President of the Barbados Netball Association, Nisha Craigwell, confirmed to NATIONSPORT yesterday that a request had been received from UWI Blackbirds to withdraw their team from the league competition.

Craigwell did not go into details about the request but tonight’s match between the Blackbirds and C.O. Williams Rangers has been cancelled.  Luckily, UWI have not played any matches for 1 Division one season as yet.

While the season started over a month ago, it was only last week that the top four teams Blackbirds, Pine Hill St Barnabas, Rangers and Guardian Pride of Villa were fixtured to play, as their national players were engaged with Commonwealth Games activity in Australia.

Even then with those four teams struggling with various injury problems, the double crown queens UWI had their opening match postponed while Rangers were stunned by the newly promoted Wolverines and then Spooners Hill Firebirds cooked Villa to hold a 3-0 record.

While no reason has been given for the Blackbirds’ withdrawal, many of their players are suffering various injuries.  Sheniqua Thomas and Shanice Rock did not make the trip Down Under due to injury, while shooter Shonica Wharton and centre court player Damisha Croney are under medical care since returning from Australia.

Only Teresa Howell and Rieah Holder seem to be the UWI national players to have returned home fit. Ironically, last season UWI boasted two teams in Division 1 comprising 19 players. Just like the other disciplines, the Blackbirds take part in their coaching staff receive payment for performing their duties. This year they registered just Division 1 and 5 teams.

Last year, it was no All Fools Joke when on April 1 UWI met and defeated St Barnabas with a squad boasting 11 national players in Wharton, Thomas, Rock, Croney, Howell, Holder, Shanice Wharton, Kashera Corbin, Rashida Chase, Alicia Wilkinson and Roxanne Snyder.

This year’s season will comprise one round as the association looks to give their best players enough time to recover and train for the AFNA Qualifiers in August.  Blackbirds have indicated that they will make a decision on their participation in the knockouts.

Rule 1.4 of the BNA regulations states: “Any club withdrawing its team(s) after the start of the competition may be prevented from taking part in any future BNA competitions and/or may be subjected to a fine as determined by the Board of Directors.”

Ironically the Blackbirds can automatically return to Division 1 netball next year as the BNA has a rule that a team containing national players and/or Division 1 competitors must play in Division 1. Furthermore, debarring UWI would gut the Barbados team. (KB)

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