It was perhaps the story of the Gold Coast, and the most historic day in the sport’s Commonwealth tenure - when Team England’s netballers clinched Commonwealth gold with a last-gasp victory over the hosts Australia.
Natalie Haythornthwaite played an integral role throughout the Games in wing attack and has been looking back at the day that changed netball in England forever.
“Everybody in England has been trying to achieve this dream for so many years,” the wing-attacker said. “It’s been such a long process, so for it finally to all come together and to do it on the global stage was just incredible.”
Helen Housby sank the game-winning shot in the final seconds of the Netball final at the Gold Coast to secure the gold medal, with pandemonium from the Team England camp ensuing.
Not only was this the first ever gold medal England had won in the sport, it was also the first time Australia and New Zealand have not contested a Commonwealth final since the sport’s induction in 1998.
However, this shift in power, as coach Tracey Neville described it, has been a long time coming, so Haythornthwaite believes.
“We’ve always had the talent and we always hear people say ‘England could win’ and actually this time England did go all the way,” she added. “People have had that belief for years, it’s been such a long process but we got the job done.”
The 25-year-old, who currently plays for the Vitality Super League-leaders Wasps, is already witnessing the benefits that comes with such success, as the nation’s attention turned toward the Roses upon their return from the Gold Coast, and with that future generations of netball players keen to replicate their gold medal triumph.
“There is media in netball, our games are on TV, but it’s been mad. If I go to a game now, and I don’t have my medal people ask me where it is!”
“I’ve done a bit of coaching since coming back. I was genuinely just like them, I was a huge netball fan, I would have loved going to be coached or meet an England netballer – and now I’m that person, I love it but it’s so surreal.”
It’s certainly an exciting time for the sport in England, with the World Cup set to take place in Liverpool next year as well as the next Commonwealth Games in Birmingham – there’s a lot to look forward to.
“We will start back on the England programme in July. Then it’s all heads down, get working towards the World Cup because we know that every country that’s going to come down will be gunning for us because we’re Commonwealth champions, and we’ve got a target on our backs now.”
“Once you’ve won once, people want to see you do it again and you want to do it again.”
“I would love to go to the World Cup and win again, especially after our Commonwealth performance.
“To do that again, it’ll be phenomenal. There is that pressure of winning that medal, and getting to the final but we’ve shown we can deal with that pressure.”