Samoa is taking a new approach to selecting players for the 2021 World Youth Netball Cup.
Last month’s Oceania qualifying tournament was cancelled because of Covid-19, with Samoa securing their spot in Suva based on the latest world rankings.
The Pacific Island nation finished 11th at the last Youth World Champs in 2017 and is planning to hold ‘virtual trials’ to help select their final squad.
National head coach Frances Solia, who is based in New Zealand, admitted the idea was initially frowned upon.
“I know when I first spoke about it, I think everyone thought I was nuts, but we’ve had to adapt to a new norm and this is our approach moving forward,” Solia explained.
“If you look at the fact that New Zealand’s borders aren’t open, Samoa’s not open, Australia…how are we supposed to run a trial when we can’t have that and we can’t travel and knowing that the competition runs in June, we lose a lot of time.”
“We just didn’t feel comfortable waiting for next year to do all of this, whereas we can run a trial, select a squad this year and get them fit,” she said.
The former Samoa captain said the virtual trials would be based on players’ fitness standards and their performance in competitive matches, but they were waiting for competitions to get back underway in New Zealand, Australia and Samoa before following through the idea.
“Club competitions and school competitions are on now so we are going to base their virtual trials off their games and it’s up to the individual to get the games they want recorded, to get recorded, and then sent through to us to view to see whether or not they earn a spot.
“They’d have to be a bit smart in terms of which games they’re going to send through. Obviously when you head towards the finals you should be peaking and so it makes sense to send through the back-end of their games…but both their fitness performance and game needs to be recorded and sent through so that it’s legit.”
Some pressure would also be put on clubs and school teams to perform well.
“There’s always pressure when you perform and you’re going to a trial. It’s a lot of pressure to perform at a trial and so this is it,” she said.
Covid-19 has forced businesses and sporting organisations to change the way they operate and Solia said Netball Samoa is no different.
“We all know that Zoom works. Everyone has been using Zoom and it’s really changed the way that people operate,” she said.
“It’s effective and it’s effective enough for us and it’s another way of being able to stay in touch with the girls without travelling.”
“If we can do all of that now, instead of waiting until next year knowing that the competition is in June, it just gives us more time to prepare the team so that eventually, fingers crossed that the borders open in January, that we are already in a squad and ideally a squad that’s been following a training programme.”
“The World Youth Netball Cup is important and it’s a pinnacle event for under 21s so we’re taking it seriously and that’s why we’re not waiting until the borders are open and finding ways that we can formalise a squad before they open.”
Samoa will be one of four Pacific Island nations competing at next year’s World Youth Netball Cup, with Fiji hosting the event and the Cook Islands and Tonga claiming the final two Oceania qualifying spots.