The Sri Lanka Youth Netball Team will participate in the 8th Netball World Youth Cup to put behind a chaotic last 3 months and begin the road to recovery in a positive manner.
Road to the World Youth Cup
Sri Lanka booked their place in the 2017 Netball World Youth Cup after winning the 2015 Asian Youth Netball Championship in its 9th edition. The Youth championships are for the U21’s.
A fantastic display of shooting by Thisala Algama saw Sri Lanka run away with the Asian Youth Netball title for thE…
The team was led by the vastly experienced goalkeeper Gayani Dissanayake. She had represented Sri Lanka since 2012 and was part of the Youth side since 2009 much like her deputy on tour Thishala Algama. Dulangi Wannithilaka and Gayanjali Amarawansa were also part of the senior pool at the time. Gayani, Thishala and Gayanjali had toured with the Sri Lanka side for the World Cup earlier in the year.
With the experience the side had across the court, it was no surprise that the Islanders won the Asian Youth Championship defeating Malaysia 53-48 in the final. In the semi-final, Sri Lanka defeated Singapore 69-56 while defeating Malaysia 64-48 in the group stage.
From the highs of 2015, Sri Lanka managed to crash land in 2017. Two years on from dethroning Malaysia as Asian Youth Champions, Sri Lanka could only muster a 4th place finish, plagued by on-field and off-field controversies.
Sri Lanka only had three surviving members from the 2015 side, with only one, Sachini Rodrigo, having playing experience from the championship side. The other two were Nadee Fernando and Hashini Perera.
With the captaincy being given to Nadee, rather than the expected Sachini, the disputes emerged even before taking onto the court to defend the title. As a result of a divided camp and short sighted officials, Sri Lanka suffered their first ever defeat to Thailand 53-48, in the tournament opener.
The team managed to win the next two matches crushing their opponents and in the must win group match to secure a semi-final place, they defeated Hong Kong 60-45. However, in the semi-final Singapore crushed the defending champs 58-32 and Hong Kong avenged the group stage loss with a 58-49 win to finish in 3rd place.
Hong Kong produced a clinical 2nd half performance to bag 3rd place with a 58-49 win against..
The barely healed wounds were opened and upon returning to Sri Lanka players, officials, coaches and media hurled criticism and controversial statements in the open.
Rebuilding the Team
The volatile situation meant the incoming Netball Federation officials calling for a fresh selection and this time looking for young talent. With two new head coaches – Amalka Gunathilaka (Holy Family Convent, Kurunegala) and Janaki Goonesekara (Holy Family Convent, Kaluthara) both of whom having over a decade worth of experience and coaching consultant Hyacinth Wijesinghe a former Sri Lanka coach, the 12-player squad was selected with four players from the Asian Youth Championship losing their place, including vide-captain Hashini Perera.
Mandira Charuni was appointed as the captain while Asian Youth’s highest scorer Kaveena Rajapaksha was appointed as her deputy.
Mandira Charuni has been appointed as the Captain of the Sri Lanka team for the upcoming…
“Our focus was to improve the fitness of the players. They knew the game. What we needed to do was improve their fitness and then buildup the pattern. We could build up the pattern as they knew the game but there’s no use of building those patterns without improving their fitness. I should thank Ananda Wannithilaka. He did well in improving the fitness of players,” Janaki Goonesekara said.
Around half of the squad are school girls, who still have another 2-4 years left in their school career. In terms of match practice the squad have had numerous matches played against A Division clubs like Navy and Army, which have a bunch of current and former Sri Lanka players.
“05 of the 12 players who are selected are from the school level. I think that it’ll be a good investment for Sri Lanka in the future tournaments. They will have a good experience at the end of this tournament to do well in the upcoming world cups,” added Amalka Gunathilaka.
“Melani, who is 15 years old and more than 6’ feet, plays in the GS position. Kaveena, who represented Sri Lanka in the Asian Youth in the GS position, will play in this tournament in the GA position. We completely improved her fitness to fit her into that position and as of now she has adapted into that new position well.”
“We even have young players like Sethmi Danoshi, Suseema Kumari and Natasha Aluvihare. In the world cup we’ll try to substitute Sethmi to the WA position and Suseema to the WD position. We do hope that they’ll perform well in the tournament and the experiences that they’ll gain in the tournament will be a huge investment for Sri Lanka in the future,” Amalka concluded.
It will be a hard task for the girls to win a match in the group stage which has the reigning champions New Zealand. It also includes Samoa, Scotland and Northern Ireland who finished 10th, 12th and 13th in the last World Youth Cup. Sri Lanka will do well to make an impressive impact against the three sides in the group stage.
However what Sri Lanka will look to achieve is a better place finish than Singapore and Malaysia in the play-offs.
“We are competing from group A and we hope to win a game in the group stage and to have an improvement in rankings,” Amalka mentioned about Sri Lanka’s targets.
Mandira Charuni (Captain) – Kaveena Rajapaksha (Vice-captain) – Nadee Fernando – Sachini Rodrigo – Poorni Lakshani – Mellanie Wijesinghe – Nilumi Happuarachchi – Malsha Rathnayake – Natasha Aluvihare – Sethmi Danushi – Tharushi Illangarathna – Susima Bandara
Standby – Aloka Udari, Imesha Nirmani, Rashmi Divyanjali
- Coaching Consultant – Hyacinth Wijesinghe
- Head Coaches – Amalka Gunathilaka, Janaki Goonesekara
- Trainer – Ananda Wannithilaka
- Manager – Jayanthi Somasekaram De Silva