The Royal Navy Netball Associations’ Interservice victory in RAF Cosford back in March this year could not have came at a better time for the team, as they got to celebrate by going on their tour to Fiji in June 16. The RNNA tour every 3 years to bring through grass route players, experience different styles of play from different nations and to promote the Royal Navy overseas.
Our journey started off at Heathrow airport where the team met and prepared for the long haul flight to Fiji, stopping at Hong Kong along the way. On arrival, the girls took the first day to settle in, take in the sights and get rid of their jet lag before the training and games began. Saturday fastly approached and brought with it the Navy’s first game against local side Tagimoucia Flames. Coach, Lt Cdr Linda Cairney, put out a mixed squad to try out new combinations and re-introduce old ones, looking at what we needed to work on during our training sessions this week. The Flames certainly showed us how it was done in Fiji, putting out a very fast and very physical performance, taking a win over the Royal Navy side.
After regrouping at training on the Monday, we figured out our strength was our second stage defensive marking, or in layman’s terms, putting our arms up over the ball. This slowed down the pace of our Fijian opponents, giving us more opportunity to make an interception. Throughout the other training sessions, we also worked on timing our runs and conserving energy by playing a fast game then going to a slow controlled game. This was essential as part of the Navy’s game plan as we were not used to the heat and humidity we were playing in.
Monday night’s game showed the squad being split into two teams. POWtr Sarah Bearcroft rejoined the squad as 1st team captain after being out injured for the season and LMA Fiona Jones took lead for the 2nd team. The games were against Veiyasana Netball Club and it was guaranteed we had a tough night in store for us. The 1st team score was 34-45 and the 2nd team 7-24 giving the girls a lot to work on in training.
The Fijian U21 Squad was next on the Navy’s hit list, but due to unforeseen weather conditions and lack of replacement venues, the court was ruled unsafe for play.
The Royal Navy 2nd Team stormed into their game against the Fijian Army, putting in an outstanding performance which kept the crowd on edge all the way through. It was down to the final few minutes of the game in which the Army took the lead and held the Royal Navy to a 14-13 loss. With moral high, the Royal Navy 1sts took to court, hoping to achieve what the 2nd team was so close to. AB Bethany Stacey showed her physical stamina by not only playing for the 2nd team, but putting in a full game for the 1st team as well. Again, the Royal Navy showed incredible grit and determination but could not hold onto the score, leaving the game with a 19-24 loss.
With confidence building from previous performances, the squad was going into the final match for one thing… a win! The game was held at the Vodaphone arena in Suva, Fiji and this time the weather could not get in the way of the RN vs. Fiji U21’s. The second team again kicked off the night’s entertainment. Sub Lt Ali Aindow continued with her consistent shooting form, which she had kept through the entirety of the tour. Unfortunately the U21’s were the stronger side and stormed to a 35-17 victory. The last game of the tour was the RN1 vs. Fiji U21. From the start the game was extremely difficult and the U21’s pulled away at half time. The Navy entered the third quarter and started playing their own game. This saw them hacking back at the score line, coming within 2 goals at one point in the last quarter. The girls fought until the end but could not take the lead. The match ended 29-32 in the U21’s favor.
When the squad wasn’t playing netball, we visited local schools in which we interacted with the children, playing some netball-focused games. The children were between the ages of 8 and 13 and played netball for their schools. We also attended an orphanage in which we got to see the wonderful job the volunteers were doing looking after the children, who were from the age of 1 through to 16. Here, we also interacted with the children, but instead of us learning them some of our games, they were the teachers. We spent hours out in the sun singing, playing clapping games and throwing and catching balls. We also got some down time to rest and recuperate by going on island daytrips, staying in the tourist city of Nadi, museum visits and hosting our new Fijian friends. The tour came to an end and it was back to the reality of work, and of course, pre season training.
Thank you to LNN Wrigley for this article and also the photos which you can access by clicking here for the link to the photo gallery.