West Coast Fever’s Annika Lee-Jones was one of our 21/Us representing Australia in the Digicel Punjas International Youth Series in Fiji and has reflected on the Series.
The Aussies took out the title after defeating Samoa, Fiji and New Zealand – a great indication of things to come when our 21/Us head to Botswana for the Netball World Youth Cup in July.
The end of our tour of Fiji marks another successful camp for the Australian 21/U Squad.
Over the past week the fourteen players, who were selected as part of the Australian squad to tour Fiji, have been busy training and competing in the Digicel Punjas International Youth Series.
It all began on Sunday the 8th of January where we all met in Sydney to play the NSW Swifts and GIANTS Netball prior to jetting off to the pacific island nation.
An intense afternoon saw us take on the NSW Suncorp Super Netball teams in two four quarter matches. This gave us the opportunity to come together as a team and get some match practice in before taking on our International competition.
Upon arrival at the Sydney International Airport on Monday, we expected to be faced with exactly what was planned in our schedule. We quickly found out this would not be the case as our flight to Suva had in fact been cancelled.
Fortunately, we were booked on another flight that day, however, were faced with a a seven hour wait at the airport. In addition to this, the flight was scheduled to land in Nadi, meaning after landing we had to jump straight onto a coach for a four hour bus trip across the island to Suva, finally reaching our accommodation at 4am the next day.
Our first game saw us take on the Fiji U/21 team. We began the game strongly pulling away to an early lead which we held onto until the final whistle. Despite the advantage we held on the scoreboard, the Fiji crowd continued to cheer loudly, showing their undying support for the home team.
As a team, we had never experienced this kind of response given the lead we held over our opposition and in the fourth quarter this proved to be quite a distraction. We began to lose concentration in some areas, giving Fiji more opportunities to capitalise. In the final quarter Fiji were able to reduce the score difference by two goals.
DAY TWO – v NEW ZEALAND:
In day two of competition we faced a tough game against our Trans-Tasman rivals, New Zealand. In a game full of ups and downs we managed to come away with a sixteen goal win despite being four goals down at half time.
Although having a shaky first half, we were able to refocus for the second half to bring home the win.
DAY THREE – v SAMOA:
The final game of the round saw us defeat Samoa 81 to 18.
With the formation of a new game plan we were excited to take this to the court and see what effect it would have on our end result. As reflected in the final score it proved to be a success and something which we could take into our final game against New Zealand.
FINAL – v NEW ZEALAND:
Undefeated heading into the final, we once again implemented our game plan, however with greater frequency than the day before. The style of play we adopted saw an ongoing build up of pressure from the first whistle to the last, appearing to fluster the New Zealand U/21s.
Whilst they stuck with us for the first three quarters, the last quarter saw us pull away finishing the match with a nine goal lead, 52 to 43.
Aside from training and playing every day in Fiji, we also had the opportunity to experience Suva everyday as we walked to find lunch. This provided us with an insight into the Fijian way of life. The Fijians are some of the friendliest people we had ever met; we were constantly greeted by people in passing.
Special mention must be made to lovely staff at our accommodation, who not only taught us a number of Fijian words, but also quickly became our number one supporters!
Overall we came away achieving great success whilst also building upon relationships within the team both on and off of the court.