England netball head coach Tracey Neville is looking towards the future as the Roses head into the 2018 Sunshine Series.
Speaking on the eve of England’s 55-43 loss to hosts Jamaica in the early hours of this morning, Neville has identified the series as an opportunity to develop a new wave of upcoming players, and breed a new lease of life into the reigning crop of Commonwealth champions.
With a home World Cup in Liverpool to look forward to in less than a year’s time, the former Roses player is refusing to let squad standards slip as expectations continue to grow.
“Keeping a perspective on your programme and the demands of your programme is really important to not let standards slip which the girls know,” said Neville.
“This year we’ve stepped up what we’re doing from the year before so we’ve got more international competitions, we’ve got more camps and time for us to be together and that was always going to be apparent.
“Sometimes when you win you don’t think you need to be doing that, but from our point of view it’s recognising where you need to get your wins. That might not always be on court and that’s one thing as a coach I’ve realised that a lot of what it takes to win a gold medal happens off the court , not just on the physical sense.”
Missing a number of the Gold Coast team from the current squad, including Beth Cobden, Natalie Haythornthwaite and Eboni-Beckford Chambers, a number of new faces have been added in their place for the Sunshine Series.
Including the likes of Razia Quashie, who this morning made her senior debut in the first-test loss to Jamaica, Neville believes introducing new players into the Roses set-up has already had a positive impact on the squad as a whole.
“Sometimes when the team’s been together a long time and won something like that [the Commonwealth Games], there’s a bit of staleness in the group, but I’ve not felt that with the new energy of people coming in who weren’t included in the Commonwealth gold medal. I felt like they were bringing energy to the group to want to go an win their own gold medal, and that powers those who have won the gold medal who were coming off the back of a season to actually go out there and perform. That’s the depth we’ve not got in the Roses.
“Going to the Sunshine Series, something we’ve done as a coaching group is rest a significant number of our Commonwealth Games team due to the volume of training they’ve done since January and looking at the long term picture of the World Cup.
“We have a young, exciting succession group of players with us in Jamaica to play against the world number 4 who obviously only lost to us by one point in the Commonwealth Games, so from my point of view this is about creating an opportunity for them and seeing who is resilient enough to play in these sort of games.
But with the bigger picture of a World Cup looming, now is the time for emerging players to stake their claim for a place in the squad and repeat the gold medal success achieved on the Gold Coast.
“I said to the players last night, the pressure’s not on you, the pressure’s on the players watching from back home and that is where they need to start making their mark going into the World Cup.”