Net­ball aim­ing for more in­ter­na­tional ac­co­lades

Sunday Times (Sri Lanka) - - SPORTS - By Susil Pre­malal

The Sri Lanka Net­ball Fed­er­a­tion (SLNF) con­sid­ers the year 2019 as one of the tough­est ever an­tic­i­pated in its his­tory, with two all im­por­tant in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tions lined up. With just six months away from the two com­pe­ti­tions -- the World Net­ball Cham­pi­onship and the Asian Youth Net­ball Cham­pi­onship -- the lo­cal net­ball of­fi­cials have al­ready laid out the blue prints. De­spite mi­nor set­backs the SLNF is all out in full force to reach the re­quired ob­jec­tives.

"The year 2019 is a chal­leng­ing one for the Sri Lanka ju­nior and se­nior net­ball play­ers. We have had a very suc­cess­ful year in 2018 and the most chal­leng­ing part will be main­tain­ing the stan­dards we reached," stated Trixi Nanayakkara, the Pres­i­dent of SLNF.

Sri Lanka se­nior net­ballers will be in ac­tion at the all im­por­tant World Net­ball Cham­pi­onship, which will be held in Liver­pool, Eng­land from July 12 to 21 while the ju­nior play­ers are sched­uled to com­pete at the Asian Youth Net­ball Cham­pi­onship, to be held in Kashima, Ja­pan from June 30 to July 7.

"Our main tar­get for the se­niors is to come amongst the first ten in World Cham­pi­onship while for the ju­niors the tar­get will be the cham­pi­onship at the Asian Youth," Nanayakkara out­lined on the goals set by SLNF.

Af­ter a slot was guar­an­teed for the se­nior team, who won the Asian Cham­pi­onship last year, the SLNF is aim­ing the same with its ju­nior side for the 2021 World Youth Cham­pi­onships to be held in Fiji. At the 2015 Syd­ney World Net­ball Cham­pi­onship, Sri Lanka par­tic­i­pated as the Asian run­ners-up and were placed 16th out of 16 teams.

As a re­sult Sri Lanka’s World Rank­ings rose to 26th place. As a re­sult of Sri Lanka's tri­umph at the Asian Cham­pi­onships held in Sin­ga­pore, the is­land na­tion's World Rank­ings reached 19th from 26th, af­ter a lapse of nine years.

"This is a ma­jor achieve­ment for net­ball in Sri Lanka. The en­tire glory should go to cur­rent net­ball coach Thi­laka Ji­nadasa. The daunt­ing task of bet­ter­ing the World Rank­ings at year’s World Cham­pi­onship too has been handed over to Thi­laka. Sri Lanka’s tar­get is to come within the first ten from the par­tic­i­pat­ing 16 teams," added Nanayakkara.

With set ob­jec­tives in place, the SLNF has drawn a ma­jor de­vel­op­ment plan aim­ing the World Cup and Asian Youth Cham­pi­onship. Nanayakkara re­vealed that the SLNF has planned a se­ries of for­eign and lo­cal ex­po­sures tours, sim­i­lar to what they did prior to the Asian Cham­pi­onship in 2018.

"In May the Sri Lanka squad will visit Zam­bia to play a se­ries of matches. The tour is con­firmed but match dates have not been fixed as yet. In April the Malaysian Youth team will visit Sri Lanka from April 8 to 12. The ju­nior and se­nior play­ers will en­gage them­selves in these matches,” Nanayakkara re­vealed.

Sri Lanka has been drafted into Group ' A' at the World Cham­pi­onships in Eng­land along­side ti­tle hold­ers Aus­tralia, North­ern Ire­land and Zim­babwe. Ac­cord­ing to cur­rent World Rank­ings, North­ern Ire­land is in 8th spot, Zim­babwe 16th and Sri Lanka 19th.

Sri Lanka’s first match will be on July 12 against Zim­babwe fol­lowed by their game against North­ern Ire­land on July 13. They will meet the de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons Aus­tralia on July 14. Head Coach Thi­laka Ji­nadasa was pos­i­tive of her team's abil­i­ties as she ear­marked two vic­to­ries in the group stage.

"North­ern Ire­land is in eighth place af­ter play­ing 28 games and Zim­babwe is placed 16th af­ter hav­ing played 38 matches. Sri Lanka has played 18 games to earn the 19th place. We have never played against Zim­babwe but I'm pretty sure that we will be able over­come them, and move on to give North­ern Ire­land a good run for their money," stated coach Ji­nadasa.

Cur­rently the Sri Lanka net­ball squad in­cludes 26 play­ers but in time to come it will be pruned down to 20 ac­cord­ing to SLNF. By end of April or early May SLNF aims to name the fi­nal 12 play­ers and three stand­bys.

In ad­di­tion the SLNF has called in ap­pli­ca­tions for a po­ten­tial can­di­date for the po­si­tion of Youth Coach tar­get­ing the Asian Youth Cham­pi­onship. SLNF will po­ten­tially ap­point a Youth Coach Jan­uary 25. Presently the Youth squad in­cludes 60, who are train­ing con­stantly and the fi­nal team is ex­pected to be named by end of May.

Sri Lanka re­gained the Asian Net­ball ti­tle af­ter nearly a decade last year

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