‘Angry’ Jewels eye success Down Under 

Namibia will be competing in the upcoming Pacific Netball Series for the first time. Photo: Sheefeni Nikodemus 

The Desert Jewels are out to make their Pacific Netball Series debut count when they test their mettle against four Australasian nations from 10 to 15 June in Brisbane.

The prestigious competition, which is supported by the Australian government’s high performance PacificAus Sports programme, will feature Australia’s invitational team, Tonga, Fiji, Samoa and Singapore.

The teams will compete for world rankings at the six-day series, with Namibia aiming for second international tournament success.

Jewels head coach Julene Meyer says they are not participating simply to make up the numbers.

“I will never disrespect this badge to participate or to just play in a tournament. I’m the head coach of the national team,” Meyer said during the team’s send-off ceremony at the Namibia Sport Commission in Windhoek yesterday.

“We are going for gold, and we are pursuing excellence,” she said.

The touring Desert Jewels were selected in April before going into camp on 24 May to prepare for the upcoming test in earnest.

They leave for Brisbane tomorrow.

“The team has been working incredibly hard. This is the best conditioned team that we have taken out of the country. They’re very well prepared,” Meyer said.

“I think the best thing that happened to this team was the fact that we lost the Africa Cup final last year in Botswana. That made us angry. It brought urgency into our preparations, a desire for players to perform, hungry for success,” she added.

“And, you can see it in their preparations and in their mental attitude that has changed. So, I’m very much looking forward to seeing their performance on court. We are going out to benchmark ourselves,” Meyer said.

The Tonga Tala are tipped to secure a fourth straight title at the Pacific Netball Series, but Namibia, the lowest ranked team in the series, have plans to crash the party.

Meyer said the Desert Jewels will be playing against teams ranked above them to increase their ranking, adding that that way they will qualify not only for the world cup, but also for the Commonwealth Games.

“These are the players who will form the core of going forward and qualifying for those clinical events on the netball calendar. I’m very happy that we can look each other in the eye and be very proud of what we have achieved thus far,” she said.

The series marks the first time that Namibia will compete in Australia since the 1991 Netball World Cup in Sydney.

Regular participation in high profile competitions abroad has been a struggle for Namibia, which is why the Desert Jewels will make the most of the upcoming international experience, says Cornelia Mupenda, one of the team’s most notable players.

The trip Down Under is made possible through the support of Debmarine Namibia.

“It is an honour to be here as we prepare to embark on an exciting journey to Australia for the All-Pacific Games. On behalf of our beloved Debmarine Desert Jewels netball team, I would like to extend our deepest gratitude to everyone working behind the scenes,” said Mupenda, who also plays professionally in South Africa.

“The journey ahead is a testament to the hard work, dedication and resilience of everyone that has been part of this journey. We are not just representing our team but also our community, our supporters, our nation and the eagle badge,” she said.

Mupenda said the team is ready to face the challenge and bring honour to the team’s sponsors and supporters, adding that they will showcase the talent and spirit that defines the Desert Jewels.

Netball Namibia president Rebekka Goagoses believes the team will benefit greatly from the Pacific series as they continue growing into a formidable force.

“We don’t want to prepare the team in the [Netball World Cup] qualifying year. It’s counterproductive to do so,” said Goagoses.

“The time to only participate, like the coach has mentioned, is done, finished, over,” she said.

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