The Netball World Cup was always likely to be dominated by the top-seeded teams (the hosts and holders Australia, New Zealand, England and Jamaica); but there are teams lower down the rankings that are producing some outstanding performances and results. One of those teams is Scotland.
Placed in a preliminary group with England and Jamaica’s “Sunshine Girls”, progress was never a realistic goal. What was achievable though was to compete well against these two sides and beat the other team in the group – Samoa.
The 47-36 victory over a Samoan side ranked 13th, two places below the Thistles, was a crucial result. It allowed the Scotland team to take their place in a qualification group with Fiji (ranked 5th), Barbados (9th) and Sri Lanka, who currently lie just outside the world’s top twenty.
For a developing squad, the main goal in such a prestigious competition must be to finish above their ranking or seeding, and that effectively means going out onto the court and beating sides that are considered, on paper at least, to be better or stronger.
The first Pool H clash paired Scotland with Barbados, and the Thistles made a wonderful entrance as Goal Shooter Gemma Sole piped the squad onto the court. I am now desperately trying to find my old recorder so that I can offer to do something similar at Grangetown’s opening home fixture next month....
Scotland edged the first two quarters, but the “Bajan Gems” rallied strongly and clawed back four goals to leave the Thistles with a solitary goal advantage with fifteen minutes remaining. The scoreboard read 31-31 five minutes into the last period, but in a reportedly physical encounter, the Scottish girls edged back in front and were able to hold on to record a 37-34 victory.
It is a brilliant result for Gail Parata and her rapidly improving squad, and the Thistles now face Sri Lanka with a great chance of securing another win and really putting some pressure on a very useful Fiji side.
Scotland may well go into the Sri Lanka game as the favourites based on the rankings and their recent performances; mentally this might present a slightly different challenge, but this is a talented, dedicated and committed young Scottish squad that will prepare thoroughly and certainly not underestimate the Sri Lankans.
I’m sending my best wishes to “our” Scotland players: Gemma, Jo and Hayley, and to the rest of the Scotland squad. Congratulations on a great win over Barbados... show the same level of passion and skill tomorrow and I’m sure you’ll be celebrating again.