Neville: 'Excuses' inhibiting netball's growth must stop ahead of crucial Commonwealth summer

·3-min read
Neville, 45, is Performance Director of Vitality Netball Superleague champions Manchester Thunder
Neville, 45, is Performance Director of Vitality Netball Superleague champions Manchester Thunder

By Tom Harle at the Copper Box Arena

Tracey Neville is sick of ‘excuses’ holding back netball’s growth and believes the Roses must reach the Commonwealth final in Birmingham to send the sport stratospheric again.

Most of what Neville touches turns to gold. In January she was appointed as Performance Director at Manchester Thunder, who went on to win 22 straight games and on Sunday regain the Superleague title.

The final was played out in front of a bumper Copper Box crowd, leaving Neville in no doubt as to what must come next.

“We’ve had a long time of making excuses for it with Covid,” said Neville.

“This was a full spectacle of where netball is and how we can take it forward. We’ve had full crowds at the internationals.

“Winning helps, and the success of the Roses in this next phase is crucial for England Netball. We need to be getting in that final and competing there.

“You can sit there and say ‘we’re making it bigger,’ but we’ve got to make it bigger off the court as well.”

Tracey was at the wheel when the Roses won their first Commonwealth title in 2018, with the onus on the host nation to repeat this summer under Jess Thirlby.

Thirlby’s side beat world champions New Zealand in a series in their own backyard for the first time last year and saw further Test action in January’s Quad Series.

“I think the Roses are in a great place,” said Neville. “They’ve carried on with their international programme and that is a massive plus compared to the rest.

“Jess has been able to expose players that other nations haven’t been able to do. They’re going into a championship not knowing their combinations.

“Jess is doing an exceptional job with that team at the moment and I’m one of the supporters right behind her hoping they can back up that gold.”

The end of the domestic season means decision time for Thirlby, who promised to pick on Superleague form in the unenviable task of whittling her squad down to 12.

The dreaded selection phone calls will be made this week, with the squad announced publicly in a fortnight’s time.

“We’re pretty close to our 12,” Thirlby said. “We’ll just be refining tomorrow and checking and challenging ourselves.

“It’s not going to be based on 60 minutes in the Grand Final. We might need to revisit one or two conversations but our processes are really robust.”

Much of the intrigue surrounds defensive selection with Sunday’s third-place play-off giving an insight into the back-court riches at Thirlby’s disposal.

London Pulse youngsters Funmi Fadoju and Zara Everitt have banged the door down for inclusion with a superb domestic season.

Superleague Player of the Season Layla Guscoth offered a reminder of her class as she led Team Bath to victory in the third-place play-off.

There’s no doubting the views of Pulse head coach Sam Bird, who is on the Commonwealth selection panel.

“Zara and Funmi were world-class,” she says. “It's exciting to see that standard in the Superleague. They would scare the Australians and Kiwis to death."

Vitality Netball Superleague is the UK’s elite domestic netball competition and features eleven teams from England, Wales and Scotland. For more information visit netballsl.com

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