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By Milly McEvoy
Helen Housby’s expression of sheer disbelief on scoring the goal that won England netball gold was the image of the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
Four years later Barrowford’s Natalie Metcalf clapped her hands to her mouth and did a passable impression of her team-mate after being asked to captain England at Birmingham 2022.
Metcalf has taken over the reins as skipper from soon-to-be new mum Serena Kersten (née Guthrie) as England look to defend their title on home soil.
“It happened all in the same conversation, so she [Jess Thirlby, England head coach] said that she would love to take me to Birmingham and then she paused, and I had my hands over my face, really nervous,” the 29-year-old said.
“And then she said ‘and I'd also like to ask you to captain the team.’ I just stayed in the same pose, just so elated.
“It’s a huge honour, a really surreal moment and I just felt such pride when she asked me.
“Then I just ran around the house really excited and in all honesty, I just wanted to hear how all the girls’ calls went and share the news and celebrate with everyone.”
Metcalf has vast experience at leading having served as England captain, co-captain and vice-captain on previous occasions.
She will be supported by Jo Harten as vice-captain with Commonwealth Games debutants Layla Guscoth and Laura Malcolm completing the leadership group.
And the goal attack and wing attack embodies what it means to be an England Roses player.
She added: “I'd like to think of myself as a captain who likes to have fun and who's high energy, but also really competitive.
“I think for a Roses environment, we thrive combining competitiveness with high energy and fun so I think that's really important for the team.
“One thing that's really important to me is building those relationships and connections with people, so working on that as the games go on, and I just feel so well supported with the team around me.
“In all honesty, it's a team full of leaders, we've got so much leadership within the group, so I want to utilise that and get everyone's strengths to combine and give this our best shot.”
Kersten announced her retirement from all forms of netball when revealing her pregnancy but Metcalf knows that the former skipper’s impact will still be felt.
She said: “Serena, we'd all say, she's an absolute legend. She's left an absolute legacy for the game and I believe she'll continue to do that even away from the court.
“You can't fill Serena’s shoes, what Serena did is just amazing. I would love to just continue to build on what she left behind.
“I think it would be awesome to still have her as part of this and we're all still really close with her. I'm really excited for her next chapter.
“I think the thing for us, it's just embracing that new journey together and seeing what the next chapter holds for us.”
This summer, Team England, supported by National Lottery funding, will comprise of over 400 athletes in total, and having secured her place on the squad, Clark is looking to capitalise on the once in a lifetime opportunity for medal success in her home country.
The Roses won’t rest on their laurels with Metcalf at the wheel, and despite having the unenviable task of leading the defending champions at their home Commonwealth Games, she is setting her side an even grander goal.
“I think one thing for us is trying to inspire the nation,” the three-time Vitality Netball Superleague champion said.
“We'll all say that we were those young girls that went to games with the foam finger and the mini netball and got the signatures and we were in those stadiums just like the girls and young boys who come and watch now.
“We would love to inspire the nation in that way and there's a campaign called Make Your Mark and we would love to see how many people in the country can unite through netball and the more people playing netball the better in our opinion.”
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