COVID-19 impacted Fiji Pearls outing

Fiji Netball head coach Unaisi Rokoura. Picture: FT FILE

Fiji Netball head coach Unaisi Rokoura said COVID-19 had an impact on the Fiji Pearls preparation for the PacificAus Sports Series last month.

The side went down to Tonga 60-52 in the final in Sydney, Australia. Rokoura said the series was a great opportunity and experience for the players, with five making their international debut.

“With the COVID-19 restrictions on sports in Fiji as a whole, this was to be our first netball outing in almost two years. As a coach, the main concern for me was would I be able to assemble a team, because most of the players weren’t active and aren’t active, ” she said.

“However in a time span of three months, we did our best in selecting and training the best 17 players we could have access to and started our preparations.

“As mentioned, COVID-19 had a lot of impact on what we could do and not do during our build-up. Following the health protocol was a priority as we didn’t want our players to be affected by the virus.

“December 7, 2021, we re-grouped a squad of 17. We needed to rebuild what we lost in the national team and create an environment to get us through to our first international match after two years.

“We needed a short-term plan to get us match-ready for this tournament. We were anxious about what to expect out there in the international arena.

“We did not have time on our hands so it was important that the three months preparation phase for the series was spot on. We had to strategise on how we could facilitate the different fitness components without stressing out our athletes.”

She added that for the team to achieve this targeted goal, they needed to split their training and focus so that they could be match-ready.

“This was building a match fitness player who is able to sustain performance for the whole entire series.

“Apart from building a match fitness athlete, there were other elements that we needed to build that would contribute tremendously to our team’s performance.

“This was building their mental training focus as the stress of training load and expectations can hinder our players’ preparation focus.

“We are thankful to Dr Gaylene Finekaso for being the mental coach.

“We had new athletes introduced into the high-performance environment.

“Having a mental coach assist with their mental toughness training and other elements that would affect performance psychologically was the great contribution to our success.

“Overall, we achieved our training goal and performance going into the series.”

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