2 Aug 2020

Fiji sees positive in Netball World Youth Cup delay

11:03 am on 2 August 2020

Fiji Netball are optimistic the postponed Netball World Youth Cup will be a huge success, despite being set back by Covid-19.

Fiji celebrate winning the Oceania World Youth Cup netball qualifying tournament.

Fiji celebrate winning the Oceania World Youth Cup netball qualifying tournament. Photo: Netball New Zealand

The World Youth Cup was scheduled to be held in Suva in June 2021, with Fiji, Samoa, Tonga and the Cook Islands set to represent the Pacific.

However last week the International Netball Federation, (INF), made the decision to postpone the competition.

President of the Fiji Netball Association, RubyAnn Sorovaki, said the postponement would provide more time for the host nation to prepare for the world class event.

President of the Fiji Netball Association, RubyAnn Sorovaki.

President of the Fiji Netball Association, RubyAnn Sorovaki. Photo: Supplied

"We were very excited about hosting this event in June and looking forward to everyone else coming here next year, so to hear the event was cancelled was disappointing but I'm also not surprised by it."

Sorovaki said given the dynamics around the world with Covid-19, the postponement had given her organisation the opportunity to stand back and assess the situation.

"We've got to remain positive, we've got to look at the bright side of everything right now and I think we were prepared to pull off a world class event in June, but the extra time we've been given will allow us to prepare and ensure that it's better than before," she said.

The INF will consult with qualified nations regarding options for re-scheduling the Netball World Youth Cup, including dates towards the end of 2021 and early 2022, but Sorovaki admitted nothing was certain.

"To be honest right now with everything that is happening, we're just playing it by ear," she said.

"We would love for it to be around that time [suggested] because it would work well for us in terms of preparation and the time being extended, but given how things are just so unpredictable now, we're crossing our fingers, but we'll just play it by ear for the time being."

When the time comes, Sorovaki is confident Fiji would provide a high-quality experience.

"We've been fortunate to have the technical advisor from Netball Fiji... I think now it's just a matter of taking the plans that have been put in place and then re-assessing it to make sure that come the actual time we are ready to go."

"The enormity of the event and of course preparing a world class event, we need to make sure that with everything that is happening around the world, we make it happen."

Fiji finished fourth at the last World Youth Cup in 2017 and already had an extended squad preparing for the next event. Most of the team were local players but seven were based overseas.

Sorovaki was concerned the postponement might affect the chances of some players competing because of the age requirements, however, more details were yet to be confirmed by the governing body.

The Fiji Baby Pearls at the Netball World Youth Cup.

The Fiji Baby Pearls at the Netball World Youth Cup. Photo: Netball Fiji

"[The players] are gutted of course because then we have to look at whether some of them do qualify after June next year, so that's going to be a case for us to look at," she said.

"I think all the technicalities with birth dates and all of that will probably be something the INF, the organising committee and the qualifying countries will need to discuss at some stage, but I think the priority now is talking to the qualifying countries about possible dates."

The players were still determined to make the final squad, she added.

"We have overseas-based players that have continued from the last World Cup and that are still available to play at the next Youth World Cup and they are doing their own training."

Fiji's under 21s extended netball squad are determined to play at the next Youth World Cup.

Fiji's under 21s extended netball squad are determined to play at the next Youth World Cup. Photo: Facebook / Netball Fiji

Although most of the players were based in Fiji, Sorovaki said communication had been their biggest challenge.

"Everyone is adapting to this new normal now where we have these video meetings and we are chatting online with our co-ordinator who is running our training programmes... they are keeping in touch with us. It's just all data collection now so we know everyone is sort of on the same page in preparing for the competition."

"It's been challenging especially here with the athletes we have and the reach, because we're up north and out in the west and so the communication part of everything has been a challenge for us, but we are getting here."

While the association was excited that netball was back underway in Fiji again, Sorovaki was now focused on recruiting their new national coach.

"We've just been accredited here in Fiji to go ahead and play netball so all our squad trainings have started and our clubs are getting back into netball as well, so that's really been a blessing."

"This has given us the opportunity to re-look at how we're going to bring people on board and the first thing now is to engage a national coach which we will be doing over the next couple of months."