5 August: The Northern Ireland under 21 team is looking for a top 10 finish at this month’s World Youth Netball Championships.
But head coach Jackie Portis knows that it will be difficult even though the team was sixth at the last championships in Florida, USA, four years ago.
“I think it will be a lot tougher than in Fort Lauderdale [Florida]. We’re in a tough group with Trinidad & Tobago, Barbados, New Zealand and Scotland,” says Portis who assisted the side at the 2005 games. “New Zealand is not the problem in our group – it’s the other teams that we need to compete well against.
“I would surmise that there will be close games and that our group will be toughly contested.”
The side from the United Kingdom is the first team to fly in for the championships, after two years of fundraising the $100,000 needed for the trip.
Team manager Stella Drayne says fundraising involved fun nights at the races in clubrooms where bets would be placed on horse races, packing bags in supermarkets, mixed netball tournaments, sponsorship drives and the whole team actually took part in a marathon event.
Drayne says the team members are very excited about being in Rarotonga and are looking forward to their 19 days on the island.
Assistant coach Teresa Gillespie says that the final selection is a culmination of nearly six years of development work with age-grade teams starting from under 17s.
The youngest player is 17-year-old Sophie McClean who is still attending school, with the oldest being 21. Most of the players are university students.
Northern Ireland is expecting a tough, physical encounter in its first game against Trinidad & Tobago on Tuesday, August 11. - Moana Moeka’a