UAE Eyasses netball team ready for 'amazing opportunity' against England and Scotland

Charlie Preston, member of the victorious Falcons side at the European Open Challenge, leads the Eyasses in U17 tournament

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Having played a key part in the UAE Falcons' success at the European Open Challenge in October, Charlie Preston has been asked to bring that experience to the table when she leads the Eyasses in the European U17 Quadrangular from February 25 to 27.

The Eyasses meet Scotland in the opener followed by fixtures against England and England Invitation across the three days.

Preston is understandably excited to get an opportunity to lead the country's age-group team against established netball nations as they embark on their first tour since the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic.

“I can't even describe how excited I am for this amazing opportunity. We've all trained really hard for this tournament and can't wait to experience a different style of competition playing against England, one of the strongest netball countries in the world,” Preston told The National.

Eyasses squad

Charlie Preston (captain) – goal shooter/ goalkeeper (Dubai College)

Arushi Holt (vice-captain) – wing defence / centre (Jumeriah English Speaking School)

Olivia Petricola (vice-captain) – centre / wing attack (Dubai English Speaking College)

Isabel Affley – goalkeeper / goal defence (Dubai English Speaking College)

Jemma Eley – goal attack / wing attack (Dubai College)

Alana Farrell-Morton – centre / wing / defence / wing attack (Nord Anglia International School)

Molly Fuller – goal attack / wing attack (Dubai College)

Caitlin Gowdy – goal defence / wing defence (Dubai English Speaking College)

Noorulain Hussain – goal defence / wing defence (Dubai College)

Zahra Hussain-Gillani – goal defence / goalkeeper (British School Al Khubairat)

Claire Janssen – goal shooter / goal attack (Jumeriah English Speaking School)

Eliza Petricola – wing attack / centre (Dubai English Speaking College)

“This is my first time ever leading a team overseas. I'm so happy to be given this opportunity to represent the UAE at U17 level.”

The age-group tournaments are held every year. However, they have been impacted by the pandemic over the last two seasons.

The competition is split into Championship (top four countries) and Challenge (all other Europe Netball member countries). The UAE is currently in the Challenge section.

According to team manager Susanne Skelding, taking on more established countries will aid in the UAE team's development.

“We have been invited to play alongside three teams from Championship countries and this will be very tough competition … but that’s how we improve!” she said.

“The UAE has represented at U17 level before Covid. They competed in the Challenge and won the overall competition, coming away with the gold.

“Our main aim is to try to be competitive against the highest level in Europe and to gain valuable experience by exposing our players to top international calibre netball.”

The selection trials were held back in September and the squad have been training for a place in the tour team, which was selected in December to compete in the competition to be played in Newcastle in England's north-east.

“We've all trained extremely hard in the months leading up to this competition, not only weekly netball sessions but also our own strength and conditioning programmes set by our coaches,” Preston said.

“I think despite all the nerves going through the group, we are very prepared for this competition.”

Preston, 16, earlier represented the senior Falcons that won the European Open Challenge in Gibraltar in October.

Players take part in training at Dubai College. Ruel Pableo for The National

“The Falcons has a number of really experienced players who took me under their wing and demonstrated what it took to play confidently at an international level,” the Year 11 pupil at Dubai College said.

“We were so happy to represent the UAE and do so well in the tournament. Hopefully in my role as captain, I can share all the things I learnt with the Eyas girls.”

The Falcons stunned nations ranked above them, coming off undefeated in the competition that included host Gibraltar, Isle of Man, Switzerland and Malta.

Taking the positives from that success, Skelding said more players want to get involved and represent the UAE and that the country is attracting higher level coaches looking to be part of the journey.

“World Netball are watching our meteoric rise through the rankings into the top 30 and wondering what else we can achieve,” she said.

“As such a forward thinking country, I know the UAE will seize every opportunity to enter more competitions and look to host netball events here over the next few years.

“The senior squad has grown as we train towards the next competition in May. Players are training hard and working on their fitness levels before the final squad selection will be made in March.”

Skelding believes netball is growing rapidly in the UAE and opportunities to play, coach and umpire continue to expand.

“The country is set to continue the development of sport though community initiatives and long term plans to host large international event,” she added.

“The main stakeholders in netball are ensuring the UAE is well equipped to manage netball on a large international level and become a key player on the global stage with plans for more courts and facilities as well as legacy events in the pipeline.”

Falcons Eyasses in a team huddle.

The U17 squad is made up of 12 players from seven schools in Dubai and Abu Dhabi representing six club teams.

Preston’s deputy, Arushi Holt, is a duel international, having represented the UAE age-group team at rugby.

“We're really looking forward to the opportunities the Netball Europe event will bring and are extremely proud to represent the UAE,” Preston said.

“Netball is growing rapidly in popularity here and we are so happy with the support we receive from the Sport Authorities. The girls are raring to go!”

Updated: February 23, 2022, 7:03 AM
Eyasses squad

Charlie Preston (captain) – goal shooter/ goalkeeper (Dubai College)

Arushi Holt (vice-captain) – wing defence / centre (Jumeriah English Speaking School)

Olivia Petricola (vice-captain) – centre / wing attack (Dubai English Speaking College)

Isabel Affley – goalkeeper / goal defence (Dubai English Speaking College)

Jemma Eley – goal attack / wing attack (Dubai College)

Alana Farrell-Morton – centre / wing / defence / wing attack (Nord Anglia International School)

Molly Fuller – goal attack / wing attack (Dubai College)

Caitlin Gowdy – goal defence / wing defence (Dubai English Speaking College)

Noorulain Hussain – goal defence / wing defence (Dubai College)

Zahra Hussain-Gillani – goal defence / goalkeeper (British School Al Khubairat)

Claire Janssen – goal shooter / goal attack (Jumeriah English Speaking School)

Eliza Petricola – wing attack / centre (Dubai English Speaking College)

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