Jess Thirlby with Team England at Birmingham 2022

Vitality Roses Head Coach Jess Thirlby gives her view on the team’s progress and reflects on Birmingham 2022.

Following an action-packed ten days in Birmingham, which saw sell-out crowds in attendance for Team England, Jess Thirlby sat down with Lindsey Chapman to look back at the Commonwealth Games.

Reflecting on the Games

After winning all five group games, Team England were edged out in the semi-finals by eventual gold medallists Australia and finished fourth after a defeat in the bronze medal match against world champions New Zealand.

Reflecting on the Games as a whole, Jess commented: “I could not be prouder of, not just the players, but also the staff.

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“I think as a collective we’ve got enough humility in the group to know that we can be better. But we’ve also given our all.

“Whilst the overall result is disappointing, I can’t feel anything but pride when I look, hear and see the interactions both internally and externally with the wider public and fan base.”

The final weekend

Reflecting on the final two games, Jess added: “I think there were moments of a little bit of vulnerability and we weren’t quite as clinical as we needed to be when we won ball, which was hard against the better teams and it always will be.

“There were areas that I can already see that we will want to look back on and better ourselves performance wise and that is some bigger picture stuff around more exposure, bigger stages, bigger cauldrons – and we will do that.

“I think on any given day, any of the top four can beat each other and we have evidence of that against two of those top four in the last 12 months.”

Build up to Birmingham

In the lead up to the Commonwealth Games, the Vitality Roses recorded some memorable results including a first series win in New Zealand, victory at home to Jamaica for the first time in 10 years and a first-ever Quad Series final with Australia.

“Those were all important steps in the journey. It built a confidence and it also built an optimism.

“I think arriving at the starting line for the Commonwealth Games in that position was the best we could have hoped and wished for.”

Sell-out crowds

Throughout the tournament, the NEC Arena filled with capacity crowds, creating a carnival atmosphere, full of energy and noise, something that will stay with Jess and the team.

“The groundswell of support in that arena was something really special. To have all eyes on one court and on our Roses was an incredibly special and intimate moment for the team and you saw how they embraced it. They absolutely loved it.

“I want to say a personal thank you to the fans for the level of support that they showed the players, many of whom said that it’s the best crowd they’ve ever played in front of.”

Jade Clarke thank you to fans on Instagram

Saying goodbye to Stacey and Eboni

With over 200 caps between them, Stacey Francis-Bayman and Eboni Usoro-Brown bowed out of international netball on the Sunday, leaving the court with a guard of honour and a standing ovation.

“I think what speaks to me most about the both of them is their ability to connect with so many people in so many different ways on and beyond the netball court. I want to thank them both for the impact they’ve had on me as a person and on me as a coach.

“They’re brilliant people and they’re very driven women, but they’ve also got a soft centre. I love that I’ve been privy to see both sides of them.”

Looking ahead to Uganda and Australia

In October, the Vitality Roses will be back in action starting with a home series against Uganda in Nottingham and London – get your tickets here – before an overseas tour to Australia at the end of the month.

“Both of those series are going to be hugely competitive; we’re going to be able to expose up to 30 players to international netball.

“Part of winning is learning how to win and you also have to do that with a broad group. One thing I am really proud of is the number of players we’ve exposed over the last few years and I’ll continue to make sure I provide opportunity where it is earned and where I believe the team need it in order to give ourselves the best chance next year.”

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