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Former netball captain reflects on glory days

Published: 
Wednesday, April 18, 2018

As we celebrate the successes of national sports personalities Michelle-Lee Ahye and Jereem Richards at the Commonwealth Games in Australia’s Gold Coast we reflect on the historic achievement of the T&T national netball team in 1979 World Netball Tournament, held in Port-of-Spain. Part 1 was published yesterday.

Former T&T national netball team captain Sherril Peters believes the leadership disposition and skills “were inside of me and I would love to say with the help of those persons who were around me, positive people and I tried to get as many of those people around me.}

“I played in the world championships in New Zealand four years before Port-of-Spain; we came fourth behind New Zealand, Australia and England. It was a lesson for me.

“At home in the 1979 World Championships, we were zoned and played Scotland, England and Jamaica. After the preliminaries the teams playing for the top berth were Jamaica, New Zealand, Australia, England and T&T. We beat England, and by the time we got to Australia we told ourselves that we had to win against them. Lystra Lewis said if we were to beat Australia we could come no lower than a tie for the top place.

“The Australia game was on a very rainy day. It worked out that we played that game in the evening. It was worth the wait; we won.”

“The final against NZ was a very, very difficult game. I don’t like to talk about that too much because it was difficult from all angles besides on the playing field,” says Peters. T&T came up against a Jamaican umpire and Jamaican players on the sidelines, who, incredibly were rooting for New Zealand.”

T&T were matching New Zealand in the first two quarters “but a number of calls by the umpires seemed to put the T&T team off their game momentarily. New Zealand seized the opportunity to move ahead 28-21,” wrote George Baptiste in the Trinidad Express. He noted too that the T&T crowd support also slacked during that crucial period.

“Well these things happen and it happened here. In this instance our Caribbean counterparts, family, probably thought that we could never have been where we were. New Zealand won that game against us (33-27) and so we shared the championships.

“The team was elated. It was the first time that we had got to number one. So from fourth we did in fact tie for first so that was a good jump. We were quite happy and we had T&T behind us,” says Peters.

“Lystra Lewis, a woman of substance, a woman who believed that she could, would, and must be successful and she encouraged people and brought out the best in us.

“On the team she was the chief cook and bottle washer for netball. She pushed people, she may have rubbed a few on the wrong side and sometimes you have to do that to get things done, but all for the good of netball of TT.

“She was a wonderful person, I came through the ranks with her and I have no regrets. When she went to seminars in England, she would come back with some of the plays that she saw. She was a player in her day; she knew the game and had the ties and was well respected all over the world.”

Lystra was reputed as not being an easy woman; if things had to be done she would get them done. Was that the Lystra Lewis you knew, I asked of Peters? “Yes, and that is the Lystra Lewis I was proud of.”

The team was awarded the Chaconia Gold medal; Jean Pierre received the Trinity Cross. “While Jean was the goal-shooting star, it was a team effort,” says captain Peters.

But from that point of glory, T&T netball declined steeply.

“Netball was a very amateur sport, besides if you look at the trend right now, the women do not get the recognition that they should. Team sport on-the-whole is very difficult; you have to be one-man show.

“Even if you look at how the awards are going in track and field and so too in football, can you say that we in netball were equally recognised and rewarded? I don’t think that the netball team thought so.

“It was not felt in the large national community at the time that we had done anything masterful or great. I think maybe that is one reason why netball is in the state that it is now, people did not see the benefits. I think there are some people today who are playing out in leagues in England and Australia where they play semi-professional.”

Peters says “it is never too late for full recognition of the achievement. A few of the players are still around, a few have passed on, and a few others would talk to me from time to time and feel that I could still make representation.”

Peters in her retirement coached for a very short period. She did in fact coach the T&T team that went to New Zealand, “and it was the first time that we ever won a game against New Zealand, so that was another proud moment for me, the pinnacle being when we won the joint world championships.”

In retirement, Peters had to share the time with her family, a daughter who did track, and a son playing football, not to forget being wife to national cyclist, Ronald Peters. Her professional work career was shared between BWIA/Caribbean Airlines.

“I certainly would walk the same road again. I had a wonderful period of doing things that I love. I worked very hard on my own; as a centre court player I had to be fit; check me on days at the sand track at midday. I would recommend same for all young players.”

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