Netball star Geva Mentor is well placed to comment on England’s chances of ending the sport’s antipodean duopoly when she goes in search of a second Commonwealth Games medal next week.
The 26-year-old from Bournemouth played in the prestigious ANZ Championships earlier this year, winning the title with Adelaide Thunderbirds. She was part of a World Select team that beat both world champions Australia and 2006 Commonwealth gold medal winners New Zealand and has recently done the same with England.
“We’ve beaten both of the world’s top two nations in test matches in the past year,” she points out. “There’s now a belief in our camp that we can do it and they know it too.”
Bronze medal finishes in 1998 and 2006 sandwiched a fourth place in 2002, so Mentor and team-mate Sonia Mkoloma have set their sights on going all the way this time around.
“We want to make it to the grand final … and win it,” said Mkoloma, who played in the 2002 and 2006 Games.
“We have two major tournaments in netball – the worlds and the Commonwealths – so it’s very important to us to do well,” added Mentor, who is also playing in her third Games.
Leading England in Delhi with co-captain Mkoloma will be Karen Atkinson. At 32, Berkshire-born Atkinson is the oldest in the team and will become the only player to have played at all four Games to feature netball when she takes to the court to face Barbados on Monday.
The double bronze medallist is a role model for everyone in the team but at ‘just’ 169cm tall is the smallest in the group. “We don’t look up to her, we all look down to her,” Mkoloma joked.
Come the final, Mkoloma, Mentor and Atkinson hope they are still looking down – this time from the top step of the podium.
England’s first match is against Barbados at 3.00pm on Monday 4 October.