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By James Reid
Netball star Zara Everitt is hoping the high level of competition in the England squad can spur her on to get better and better.
The 22-year-old defender from Milton Keynes was not selected for England’s Commonwealth Games squad despite an imperious domestic season that saw her lead club side London Pulse to a first ever play-off appearance.
However, Everitt feels the increasing opportunities to play alongside the country’s very best can only serve her well going forward.
“It's just a good opportunity to compete with those other players in my position,” said Everitt, who was included in the full-time Roses programme for the first time in May.
“It’s such a strong cohort, particularly at wing defence. With me being one of them, we're all aware of the competition amongst ourselves at wing defence.
“It's exciting to look forward and see all the different competitions that lie ahead and hopefully I will be part of them in the future.
“I just really want to build on what I can give individually, both at wing defence and goal defence, and knowing what my unique strengths are compared to other people.
“I take that competition as motivation to hone my skills and make sure what I can offer is invaluable for the team.”
It has been a whirlwind season that has seen Everitt propelled to netball stardom, with Pulse head coach Sam Bird describing her as “world-class” in the wake of their defeat to Team Bath at the Superleague Grand Final in June.
Pulse were not fancied by many at the start of the season, but were the surprise package as they finished third thanks to their crop of exciting youngsters.
And after her first taste of play-off netball in June, Everitt is looking forward to building on last season’s success.
“Last season, before we actually played, there was more expectation on us and we ended up underperforming,” added Everitt, who has been selected to be part of the Team England Futures programme with Commonwealth Games England and SportsAid.
“We knew we had that belief to make the changes that we needed to make, both tactically and trusting each other and the team.
“It’s about developing those relationships on court and we’ve got a core that’s been consistent for the last two years; that’s helped us be consistent and grind through those close matches.
“When it’s been level in the third quarter, we have that trust and belief to grind and push on against any team in the league.
“It does help that we’re a young team and we all have similar ambitions individually in terms of international selection.
“From the beginning when I joined Pulse, it was always Sam’s ambition to have the next generation of Roses players coming through the club.
“It’s almost the whole team now and we’re hugely proud of each other for having made those steps up. It reflects the hard work we’re putting in at the club.”
Everitt is one of eight Pulse athletes involved in either the Roses or Future Roses programmes, and having recently made the jump to the senior set-up, the Pulse captain is relishing being able to train full-time.
She said: “Futures is integrated with the full-timeprogramme so pretty much all of our training, every time we came in, we were working with the senior players.
“It has given me a really great opportunity to work with the girls I'm going to be working with this season, to see how the programme is in terms of its intensity and what the team is seeking to achieve.
“It gave me confidence that I can compete with those players, and, you know, train alongside them and keep up that standard.
“One of the most important things is the culture side of things; understanding who are the players that have come before, what they're wanting to achieve, what our goals are in terms of not only competition but how we are as a group and our values.
"Now I can really focus on my netball for that period. The whole point of the programme is that we can be full-time athletes and hope to develop a lot in a short space of time.
“That's something that I'm really excited to do; maximise recovery time and all those extra bits you can’t do if you’re not on the programme.”
Commonwealth Games England has appointed SportsAid to lead on the development, management and operational delivery of Team England Futures at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games. You can find out more about the programme by visiting https://www.sportsaid.org.uk/partnerships/team-england-futures/.