England netball star Jade Clarke says her side must shut out the memory of their tumultuous final-second win over Australia four years ago if they are to retain their Commonwealth Games title on home soil this summer.
Clarke, England’s most-capped player with 185 appearances, was part of the squad that claimed their greatest win when Helen Housby scored with the final play of the match to seal a 52-51 victory on the Gold Coast.
Interest in the sport has continued to surge, especially in the wake of the 2019 World Cup in Liverpool, in which England had to settle for third place after a semi-final defeat to New Zealand.
Clarke told PA Media: “There is going to be a lot of expectation but we can’t rely on our previous successes and we have to build a new path.
“Once we got that gold medal we were expecting to back it up at the World Cup and we didn’t do that. Now we’ve got another opportunity at the Commonwealth Games.
“It is going to feel different. No-one expected us to make the final last time and now we’ve got the expectations of being winners, but it is a privilege to have that kind of experience and expectation.
“When I was younger we were losing by 30 or 40 goals to Australia and New Zealand and now we’re right there in the mix and we have to grab that opportunity and not be scared by it.”
The 38-year-old Clarke, who plays for Leeds Rhinos in Super League, admitted she fully expected to retire in the wake of the stunning gold-medal success.
But the inspiration provided by one of her sporting heroes, combined with the continued growth of the sport, convinced her to commit to playing through at least one more Commonwealth Games cycle.
“I look at other athletes in other sports, especially Kelly Holmes, and she inspires me to stay in my sport and continue to prove I can still do it,” added Clarke, who made her Games debut in 2006.
“She was someone who kept fighting and came back to win those two gold medals, and you get the feeling she wouldn’t have stopped until she achieved that.
“At the 2010 Commonwealth Games she came and gave us all a team talk before our match, and she is someone I have always looked up to.
“At the age of 38, my goal was just to be considered for selection for these Commonwealth Games. I’m committed to the next year for England, and all I can do it take it one year at a time. At the moment I’m just loving it, and I want to keep going.”