August 9, 2023 -Winning, it is said, is a habit! That saying has been proven time and again and is a lesson that Jamaica’s Sunshine Girls supporters will be taking on board at the end of the 2023 World Netball Championship in Cape Town, South Africa.
The Sunshine Girls played their way into the favorites tag position after their flawless, yet entertaining display in the early stages of the World Cup, triggering memories of their exceptional run to the gold medal match at last year’s Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England.
Then the Sunshine Girls trounced everybody in front of them, including superpowers Australia and New Zealand, the first time they were beating both at the same championship.
However, in the gold medal match, Australia proved their mettle and turned the tables of the Sunshine Girls, much to the surprise of many. On that occasion, Australia proved the tougher team mentally, and were able to keep their focus, their intensity, and their insatiable hunger, despite winning so many times.
A year later and Jamaica appeared to have matured and learned from the Commonwealth Games as evidenced by their impressive performances.
They followed up with a 75-40 victory over Wales, humbled the hosts South Africa in front of their huge support, 67-49.
Uganda, another African outfit, suffered a similar fate, going down 61-49 on the first day of the second stage of the competition.
Caribbean neighbors and former World Cup champion Trinidad and Tobago were next and like the others, proved no match for Jamaica, who ran out 89-26 winners.
In the clash for group honours, Jamaica embarrassed New Zealand 59-48 to book their spot as group winners and a place in the semi-finals to face the runner-up of the other group.
It was the first time the Jamaicans were beating New Zealand at a World Cup, and even more importantly, it was the first time ever that the New Zealanders were losing by such a humiliating margin.
But with all eyes on Jamaica finally punching their ticket to a first ever World Cup final, they turned in their worst possible performance at the most critical stage against a team that needs no help for victory.
Unlike previous games, the Sunshine Girls gave away possession regularly and just never displayed the high quality they had become accustomed to doing.
Eventually they lost 57-54 and were forced to contest the bronze medal match instead of the gold medal match against an England team playing in their first World Cup final.
Disappointed but not dismayed, the Sunshine Girls rebounded to claim the bronze medals for the first time in many moons, confirming their dominance over New Zealand, who had surrendered to England in their semi-final match.
But it was an opportunity lost, not franking the form and beating Australia in the semi-finals. They were clearly the better team, player-for-player, but they were no match for an Aussie team, which despite being inferior in quality, believed that they were the best because of their many wins over the years.
Winning was a habit for them and so they believed. For the Sunshine Girls, winning was not a habit, as they had yet to taste success at that level, and those moments of doubts led to indecisiveness and ultimately, turnovers, which gave the proven winners the advantage.
It is no wonder Australia, beaten by one, 55-56 in the group stage game by England, blew the first-time finalist away in the final, winning by a wide margin, 61-45.
Australia found a way to claim victory over Jamaica and they did the same to England in the final because they knew what it takes to win when it matters most, unlike their two closest rivals.
The Sunshine Girls and the England Roses still have a lot to learn, as well as develop their mental capacity.