Playing Netball.

RAF Netballers Complete Hat-trick at Inter-Services

By Flt Lt Alex Rice

RAF Netball Squad The RAF hosted this years Inter-Service Netball tournament at DCAE Cosford from 7-9 March 2007. For the first time, each service was allowed to enter both a development team and an open team. Both competitions ran concurrently, resulting in 6 very tough and entertaining matches over a 3-day period.

Throughout the season the RAF squad trained almost every other weekend. Last season, coach Jamie Holden went ‘back to basics’ and focussed mainly on skills. This season then saw the addition of fitness coach Sgt Jase Healeas to the training staff, altering the focus more towards fitness, and during the last weeks of training the hard work and commitment began to show. Prior to the tournament the RAF team came up against Scotland U19s who proved to be tough opposition, but perseverance ensured that the RAF went on to win.

Shooters warmup Going into the Inter-Services, having won for the previous 2 years, the Royal Air Force came under pressure to repeat their performance. Watched by an excited and vocal home crowd, both the development team and the open team were formidable competition. Unfortunately, despite significant determination and effort, the RAF development team failed to defeat the Army in the first game of the tournament. They were confronted with a very physical match, led by an aggressive and strong Army defence. The RAF trailed from the start, having been on the back foot from the first whistle, but eventually they settled into the game and with a convincing performance from Cpl Sadie Burrow (in the unfamiliar position as Centre) the RAF began to fight their way back. Sadly, despite a progressively stronger performance from the RAF team, the Army held on to win 46-25. The Army development team then went on to win the overall development competition by defeating the Royal Navy in similar fashion, the full-time score of that game being 45-22. The last match of the development tournament was a much closer-fought competition. The RAF were again caught on the back foot in the first quarter, allowing the Royal Navy to take the lead. The RAF then fought back to take the lead, thanks to a number of great interceptions by Goal Keeper Cpl Gail Husband and some sound shooting from SAC Jenny Phipps throughout the second half. Only a couple of goals ever separated the teams but the RAF led for the remainder of the match, eventually winning by 29-23.

Open Squad The Open competition showcased impressive skill and ability. The first match saw the Army dominate the Royal Navy, winning 50-41. The first of the RAF open matches saw the RAF lead the Navy from the start and subsequently extend their lead throughout each quarter, thanks to the convincing shooting efforts (and an impressive rebound rate when the shots didn’t go in!) of SAC Alanieta Mailulu. In addition, SAC Jo Hollick (playing Wing Defence) made some fantastic interceptions and blocked a number of important passes into the Navy shooting circle. Despite the impressive shooting combination of Sgt Toni Weir and SAC Alanieta Mailulu, coach Jamie Holden made a bold substitution in the fourth quarter and replaced the two original shooters with SAC Becky Hill and SAC Julie Crawford. Although nerves were initially evident, the pair rapidly developed into another impressive and dominating shooting partnership, extending the RAF lead further and enabling the team to win 47-30.

Captain Sgt Kirsty Floyd The final showdown of the Inter-Services 2007 was between the Army and RAF, in a carbon copy of the deciding match from last year. The atmosphere was understandably tense with the Army more determined than ever to finally beat the RAF for the first time since 2004. The RAF marched onto court knowing they had only lost to the Army twice in 18 years - expecting a physical and aggressive encounter they went out aiming to dominate the court and play their own game!

Player of Tournament Sgt Max Martin Led by an impressive performance by Sgt Max Martin (who deservedly won Player of the Tournament for the second consecutive year) they did exactly that, dominating the Army throughout the match. SAC Becky Hill demonstrated an outstanding performance as Goal Attack, enhancing the notable RAF score tally. Sgt Kirsty Floyd also led a formidable RAF defence, showing inspiring form throughout the whole tournament, intercepting passes and snatching rebounds at every opportunity. The RAF went on to become Inter-Services Champions for the 16th time in 19 years, convincingly beating the Army 67-52.

Congratulations to the following individuals who were selected for the Combined Services Team: Sgt Max Martin, Cpl Sarah Phillips, SAC Becky Hill, SAC Alanieta Mailulu, SAC Jo Hollick and Flt Lt Dawn Akyildiz

Developement Squad The introduction of a development team competition has enhanced the future for RAF netball. In addition, last season saw a change to the RAF competition format, allowing individuals stationed at smaller units to participate in the Festival of Netball and the Netball Sevens Tournament. These tournaments and coaching workshops will run again this year in addition to the traditional Inter-Station competition.

If you are interested in playing netball, the RAF Netball Association is always looking to encourage new players. For more details, please contact:

RAF Netball Secretary - Flt Lt Alex Rice - Swanwick (Mil) 95586 Ext 2356
- alex.rice@nats.co.uk

Inter-Station Competition - Flt Lt Rachel Reynolds - RAF Wyton 95371 Ext 4822
Project Officer - asi-as3b1@esair.dlo.mod.uk

 

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