When asked to sum up what winning her first Vitality Roses cap would mean to her, one word instantly came out of Alicia Scholes’ mouth: “everything”.
14 years after first picking up a netball at the age of eight, Scholes is now in the full-time England programme for the first time for 2023-24 and on the verge of potentially making her senior debut.
And despite attending her first after-school netball session by chance, there was something special about the sport which hooked her in and started an exciting journey.
Speaking in New Zealand, Scholes said: “I first played when I was about eight.
“One of my friends from school went [to netball] and I went to her house after school, and she just said “I’ve got netball training. Do you want to come?” so I just said “yeah.”
“Straight away, I just loved it. I knew it was something I felt comfortable and happy doing.”
“I think it’s just the freedom and ability to switch off from everything else. When you’re playing, you don’t really have time to think about anything. So yeah, it just feels like an escape.” – Alicia Scholes on what she enjoys about netball.
With a passion inside her ignited and talent to match, Scholes took every opportunity to be on a netball court growing up.
“Me and my best friends then had a team [called Hustlers] and we just entered the Sunday league,” she reminisced.
“I think we were only 11 but we were good and used to beat everyone.”
Whilst playing netball at Oldham Hulme Grammar School, the midcourter joined Oldham Netball Club where she rose through the age groups before then moving on to YWCA Bury at the age of 15 and playing in their Premier League squad.
It was at Oldham where Scholes first got to know “the funniest person I’ve ever met”: fellow Vitality Rose Berri Neil.
Sharing who she enjoys spending time with in the current squad, Scholes said: “Definitely Berri [Neil] and Jayda [Pechova].
“But I feel like I know Berri because we used to play at Oldham together and we both got onto the England pathway at the exact same time, so we’ve just always been really close.”
Their friendship was tested earlier in the week on tour when Neil was handed a ‘loser’ nomination, but Scholes stayed faithful and was the only player not to vote for the shooter – something she insists Neil would also do if it were the other way around!
And now, after various youth international competitions together, including an U17 tour in Australia and the Europe Netball U21 Championship in 2019, they could both make their senior debuts in the Taini Jamison Trophy.
“It’s so exciting – I feel like it’s what all the training’s for,” Scholes commented.
“At the end of the day, I feel like you’ve got to play the best to be the best.”
Being the best is one of Scholes’ ambitions over the coming seasons as she aims to play as much as she can in the iconic red dress.
Neil is, of course, part of her netball plans: “Me and Berri are going to win the World Cup together.”
For now, a three-match series against the Silver Ferns and a potential first cap awaits.
Watch the Vitality Roses’ three-match test series with New Zealand live on Sky Sports TV and Sky Sports YouTube.