Jamaica’s netball all-stars bring fire and femininity in equal measure.

At first glance, you may wonder why 22 overtalented young women would choose to devote their collective future to the niche sport of netball. But think again; the Sunshine Girls, the Jamaica national netball team, has competed in every World Netball Championship since 1959, and took home the bronze in 2002 and silver in 2009, not to mention another bronze at the 2013 World Youth Netball Championships.

Coached by Connie Francis, managed by Hyacinth Beckford and captained by midcourt veteran Nadine Bryan, these young ballers are currently ranked fourth in the International Federation of Netball Associations (IFNA) after Australia, New Zealand and England – countries with more than 14 times the population of Jamaica. The team made a stellar showing at the recent World Fast5 Netball Championship held in Australia, an invite-only competition where the top six national netball teams from around the globe vie for the title of queens of the court. According to Marva Bernard, president of the Jamaica Netball Association (JNA), the Sunshine Girls are firmly on the road to victory after conquering South Africa 44-17 in a bronze-medal play-off. It was sweet revenge after losing to that same team last year. They also had an unexpected wave of support from their Kiwi audience. Bernard referred to the unfolding vision of becoming the number one at the 2015 World Championships as the ‘gold rush Down Under’. After years of being on the verge, the rebranded Netball Jamaica has earmarked the 2015 World Championship as the event where they will finally overthrow close contenders Australia and New Zealand and propel themselves to a world number one ranking.

“Our big vision is that Jamaica will be the number one netball nation in the world,’ said Bernard, ‘and our mission is to use education, world-class events and top-class organisation to get us there.”

Netball is the most popular women’s sport in Jamaica and is widely played throughout the island. Many of the Sunshine Girls are also teachers, bankers, business managers and students. But on court, their attention is undivided. Wing attack launches assault on wing defence; goal shooters go head to head with their keepers. In this case, the name says it all: the Sunshine Girls are fire and femininity in equal measure.

Name: Vanessa Walker
Age: 20
Position: Wing attack
Job: Student at teacher’s college
Career highlight: ‘The Under 21 World Championships, 2009.’
Biggest dream: ‘To see the Jamaican netball team become number one.’

Name: Tracy-Anne Robinson
Age: 25
Position: Wing defence
Job: Physical-education teacher
Career highlight: ‘Silver medal at the first Fastnet World Series.’
Biggest dream: ‘To play in the world championship.’

Name: Simone Forbes
Age: 29
Position: Wing attack
Job: Business manager
Career highlight: ‘Silver medal at the Under 21 Championship, 2000; bronze medal at the Senior World Championship, 2007.’
Biggest dream: ‘To be a successful entrepreneur.’

Name: Kameika Sherwood
Age: 26
Position: Wing defence/Goal defence
Job: Banker
Career highlight: ‘Supreme Venture Series, Jamaica, 2011.’
Biggest dream: ‘To be successful in whatever my endeavours are, and to be a proud Jamaican.’

Name: Sascha-Gaye Henry
Age: 31
Position: Wing attack
Job: Integrated sciences and physical education teacher
Career highlight: ‘New Zealand World Championship, 2006.’
Biggest dream: ‘To own my own school.’

Name: Jhaniele Fowler
Age: 21
Position: Goal shooter
Job: Customer service representative for Teleservice
Career highlight: ‘Debuting for the Sunshine Girls.’
Biggest dream: ‘I am now living it.’

Name: Jodi-Ann French-Kentish
Age: 26
Position: Goal attack
Job: Research officer for the Ministry of Water & Housing
Career highlight: ‘Fastnet World Series, 2010.’
Biggest dream: ‘To build a multicentre sports complex.’

Name: Alicia Williams
Age: 21
Position: Goal shooter
Job: Student at the University of the West Indies
Career highlight: ‘Being selected as a member of the team, and being part of the winning club team for the JNA A league.’
Biggest dream: ‘I want to be a politician. And for now, I want to head an agency that is in charge of community development.’

Name: Marion Campbell
Age: 26
Position: Wing attack
Job: 5th grade teacher
Career highlight: ‘The Commonwealth Tournament, 2006.’
Biggest dream: ‘To become a great netballer and a great mom.’

Name: Nadine Bryan
Age: 34
Position: Team captain
Job: Accounting officer
Career highlight: ‘First international bronze medal at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester, UK, 1998.’
Biggest dream: ‘To own my own home by the year’s end.’

Name: Althea Byfield
Age: 28
Position: Goal defence
Job: Professional netballer
Career highlight: ‘Playing professional netball in New Zealand.’
Biggest dream: ‘To be a millionaire.’

Name: Malysha Kelly
Age: 21
Position: Goal defence
Job: Student at the University of the West Indies
Career highlight: ‘New Zealand World Championship, 2006.’
Biggest dream: ‘To become a lawyer.’

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