The Fijian Pearls arrived in Brisbane this week to begin an intensive three-week training camp as they prepare to take on the world’s best netballers in Liverpool next month.
With athletes based across Suva, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, the training camp, funded by the Australian Government, was an invaluable opportunity for the squad to train together in a high-performance environment.
Former Australian Diamond, now Fijian Head Coach Vicki Wilson OAM is thrilled to be able to put her team in a daily training environment.
“To have this camp here in Brisbane, really is a dream come true because we’re on a full-size netball court.,” says Wilson.
A court that is three metres too short is the reality of training in the Pacific Island region.
Sharing the only indoor court facility with three other sports, the team often has to train outside on a grassed helicopter-landing pad. Although surrounded by beautiful beaches and tropical rainforest, this isn’t the place to prepare the team for an international competition.
“They don’t have the depth of players, they don’t have the infrastructure, the facilities or the competitions,” said Wilson.
“There is a massive gap between the top six teams in the world to the rest of the world. It is tough financially to compete and we need leading nations like Australia to play a role.”
“The funding from the Australian Government has provided us with the simple things – bus fares to get them to training, recovery food, sports bras, correct footwear and socks so they don’t get blisters.”
Wilson plans to build the endurance motor of her players and replicate the World Cup draw and have the team play six consecutive games without a break against state league teams in the second week of the camp.
“We’re making the most out of what this opportunity brings – to be able to have team meetings, to be able to review vision, to be able to have one-on-ones, to be able to bond as a team,” said Wilson.
Through this funding the Fijian side has been able to bring in the specialist support staff in strength and conditioning, performance analysis and nutrition.
Former Australian Diamonds coach Jill McIntosh joined forces with Wilson as a guest coach across the training camp.
“The funding allows us to have Jill McIntosh, one of the World’s best coaches to be in camp with us for three weeks. With fifteen players in the squad it is vital that we run small group specific sessions focusing on individual skills and unit strategies,” said Wilson.
McIntosh coached the Australian side between 1995 and 2003 and her 94 tests in charge is the most of any national coach.
“Jill has a wealth of knowledge and is very hands on assisting me to deliver a daily training environment to the Pearls. All the players are so grateful to have this individual attention at every training and practice game.”
Whilst in Australia the Pearls will use their free time to see the Firebirds go up against the Melbourne Vixens and NSW Swifts in Suncorp Super Netball.
“It’s wonderful for the team to see where high-performance sport is at and to see how special they are to represent Fiji and they are one of few people who have done that,” said Wilson.
“We’re so lucky to be here to be able to go and see Suncorp Super Netball – the girls will be blown away.”
The Pearls will finalise their preparations by heading to Auckland to compete in a test series against the Silver Ferns, NZ All Stars and the NZ Men’s team following the camp.