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Britain is “a little late to the [basketball] party”, said Ella Clark, but the dual-sport athlete is hoping a home Commonwealth Games will extend an invitation to future fans, writes Rachel Steinberg.
Clark, who was re-selected to the Vitality Roses full-time netball programme last month, also boasts international caps for GB Basketball and plays for Women’s British Basketball League side Leicester Riders.
This weekend, the London native is gearing up for a title tilt with Vitality Netball Superleague side Loughborough Lightning, who dramatically bolted to the top of the standings on Monday in their last game of the regular season.
Clark distinctly remembers watching one of her sports upstage the other in 2018, when the Roses upset hosts Australia for netball Commonwealth Games glory in a one-point thriller on the Gold Coast.
“Being at a multi-sport event really helps [basketball’s] profile,” said the 29-year-old, because obviously there are big news broadcasts there, like the BBC, at the Commonwealth Games, by default covering the basketball.
“And that’s what happened when [the women’s basketball squad] won the silver medal, they got quite a lot of publicity for it.
“Slightly outshone because the netball then won the gold the next day, but they still got all the publicity that they deserved.”
Clark grew up “running around the bleachers”. Her father, Mark, met mum Claire, a 90+ cap England and Great Britain international, while he was coaching at Crystal Palace. Brother Dan plays pro hoops with Spanish side Real Betis.
The goal attack and goal shooter played international netball until 2010, when she left on a six-year hiatus to focus on basketball.
She made her way back to netball in 2016 as part of the Roses’ inaugural full-time cohort, devastatingly losing two Superleague Grand Finals with Lightning in 2017 and 2018 by just four points and identical 55-51 score-lines.
To earn a chance at redemption—and their first title— Clark’s side will first have to beat Superleague newcomers Leeds Rhinos in Saturday’s semi-final at London’s Copper Box Arena.
Then it’s game on for the doubly talented athlete, who is hoping third time’s a charm in her Lightning tenure.
She said: “For Loughborough, since I’ve been here, we’ve come close and never managed to quite get over that line.
“We want this. We wanted it the last times we missed out on, so that’s just fuelled the fire even more.”
The 2021 Vitality Netball Superleague season will come to a climactic end on 26 and 27 June at the Finals Weekend in London. Visit the Vitality Netball Superleague website. Fans can enjoy all matches live via the Sky Sports Mix and YouTube. Keep up to date by following @NetballSL on Twitter and Instagram