Netball aiming for more international accolades
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