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‘Sunshine Girls’ Twin-Towers towering over Netball’s best

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For the past four years, two names have consistently taken places at the top of the statistics tables for shooting and rebounding in the ANZ Championship, the premier netball championship competition in the world.

Sunshine Girls' Jhaniele Fowler-Reid and Romelda Aiken

Sunshine Girls’ Jhaniele Fowler-Reid (left) and Romelda Aiken (right)

Both are Jamaicans – Romelda Aiken and Jhaniele Fowler-Reid, the Jamaican version of the Twin Towers, who have also been integral parts of the national setup over the past few years.

The two goal shooters split time at the position while representing the ‘Sunshine Girls’ during last year’s Netball World Cup, in which the team finished fourth.

Both players ended in the top ten for shooting accuracy in that tournament, with Aiken ranking third after hitting 92.7% of her shots and Fowler-Reid ranking sixth having made 91.4% of her shots.

If the list had been limited to players who attempted over 80 shots, those rankings would be first and fourth, showing just how deadly the duo are despite the volume of shots taken.

As the only two Caribbean representatives in the league, they have represented the region exceptionally well. Let us dig into the numbers to get a feel of how dominant each player has been:

Aiken’s dominance by the Numbers

The 6’5 inches Romelda Aiken has been in the ANZ as a member of the Queensland Firebirds team since the league began in 2008.

 

Sunshine Girls' Romelda Aiken ANZ Rankings Infographic - SBTN

Sunshine Girls’ Romelda Aiken’s overall rankings in the ANZ Championship – SBTN

Her magnificent play during these early stages earned her the MVP award in the first two years of the league. She also won the 2015 Australian MVP award after the award was separated for each country

She has not slowed down since.

The 27 year old, who possesses several league records, has never ranked lower than fourth in the league in shots made and shots attempted.

In 2014, she became the first player in ANZ history to score 3500 goals. She has scored over 500 goals in five of her eight seasons in the league, missing the mark in 2008, 2010 and 2012. Incidentally, 2010 is the year in which she had her lowest finish in the league rankings tables for shots made and attempted.

In addition to these scoring exploits she has also been a rebounding machine, pacing the league in rebounds from 2010 to 2015 after finishing second in the rankings by only a single rebound in 2009.

That astonishing level of consistency she has displayed season after season has pushed former Australian captain Liz Ellis to predict that “if she [Aiken] can keep this up for a long time she will undoubtedly be one of the best [players] ever.”

Fowler-Reid’s dominance by the Numbers

A year younger than Aiken, Fowler- Reid made her debut five years after Aiken, who was identified as a rare talent from the age of 17, and is the much less experienced of the duo.

 

Sunshine Girls' Jhaniele Fowler-Reid's rankings Infographic - SBTN

Sunshine Girls’ Jhaniele Fowler-Reid’s overall rankings in the ANZ Championship – SBTN

Despite blooming a bit later than her compatriot, her performances on the international stage and in the ANZ Championship have demonstrated that she is no less prolific.

Her quick adaptation to the league and the high level consistency draw parallels to the more season and popular Aiken. But if trends continue for a few more years her name will surely go into the pantheon of greats as well.

The 26 year old is second on the list of highest scoring individual seasons in the league, having scored 666 of 709 attempts (1 goal behind Aiken) in that same 2013 season in which Aiken set the record.

That was also her first season in the league and she was voted ANZ Championship MVP for her efforts.

She followed that up with last year’s award as New Zealand MVP.

The Southern Steel player has been no lower than third on the charts in goals scored and attempts and has scored over 500 goals in all of her full seasons in the league.

She currently leads the league this season in both categories, ahead of Aiken.

At the end of last season, she was 12th on the all- time scoring list after only three full seasons and had made the ANZ all- star in the Goal Shooter position twice, in 2013 and 2014. Her name is already at the summit of a few categories in the ANZ record books.

Since her first season, in which she only had 30 rebounds, good for seventh in the league rankings, Fowler- Reid has finished second in the past two seasons and continues to hold that position this season.

Two towers but one spot

What is not up for debate is that Jamaica’s Sunshine Girls have two of the best goal shooters currently in netball (and maybe in the sport’s history) as a part of their player pool.

However, what might seem like a boon may actually be a detriment, as both players are rotated in and out of the national side because they play the same position.

Unlike other team sports in which formations and line- ups can be altered, the nature of netball means that players with certain characteristics are fit together to perform distinct functions on the court.

The inability to deploy both at the same time could be disruptive factor for the entire team and especially for the rhythm of the players themselves as they go in and out from game to game.

In a netball world where the perennial bronze medal game participants have been within striking distance of winning an international championship, such fine margins could be the difference between a spot in a final.

But at least the Sunshine Girls don’t have to worry about where the goals will come from.

Data Source: ANZ

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