By Tom Masters, Sportsbeat
After a successful season with Saracens Mavericks, netball star Aliyah Zaranyika received the news she never thought she would hear - her selection to the Future Roses squad.
Zaranyika has been a part of the Mavericks her whole life and began playing in their elite set up aged 14.
Six years later, having played at under 17 and under 19 level, she is already an established Vitality Netball Super League player.
The 20-year-old wing defender has not exactly had the smoothest of journeys to reach England selection, but she has something that has made her destined to succeed - resilience.
Even when the going has got tough, Zaranyika has very much played on with a smile on her face and come back stronger, loving netball no matter what.
“I played in my local league when I was really young, starting in primary school, I really enjoyed it and had fun, I’ve just always loved netball,” said Zaranyika , who has been selected to be part of the Team England Futures programme with Commonwealth Games England and SportsAid.
“Even though my journey through England hasn’t necessarily been smooth, despite rejections and unsuccessful trials, it’s never been in my mind to quit, I’ve always just loved it.”
The Team England Futures programme will see over 1,000 talented young athletes and aspiring support staff given the opportunity to attend the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, watch live sporting action and take a first-hand look behind-the-scenes.
The programme seeks to better prepare athletes to deliver medal-winning performances as either Team England, Team GB or ParalympicsGB debutants at future Games, while also giving support staff a first-hand look at the opportunities they could be presented with, as well as challenges they may face, at a multi-sport competition.
Zaranika’s journey up the England ranks has been gradual, working her way up from the academy to Future Roses as well as enjoying plenty of game time in the Super League with Saracens Mavericks.
She said: “During the Super League I got asked to play for England for the first time in the academy and the year later I was asked to join England Under 21s.
“And then from that I did a season with the Under 21s and then I got invited to be part of the Future Roses this year.
“This season with Mavs, it's been a hard season, but I've enjoyed it, I've been given opportunities I never thought I'd be given, playing Super League and everything, it’s been amazing.”
Looking ahead, Zaranyika keeps it simple, as long as she is happy, she will keep playing, hoping to go as far as she can in netball, and represent her country as many times as possible.
“I don't know what my future will hold,” she added.
“It is hard, as long as I'm happy and I'm just enjoying it and I'm with people that I like, that's what I want.
“But I do feel like I really want to play for Roses and get as far with netball as I can because I do love to play.
“The more exposure I get to different opportunities, the better, so I can just learn new stuff. So yeah, I just want to get as far as I can.”
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/.