25/01/23, South Africa – a moment to remember for Jade Clarke as she won her 200th cap for England.
The Vitality Rose is only the second player in world netball to reach the impressive milestone after Irene van Dyk, who made 145 appearances for New Zealand and 72 for South Africa over her career.
Clarke, who is England’s most-capped player and the most-capped player for a single country, has not only played consistently at the top level for almost 20 years but has been an incredible advocate for the sport worldwide inspiring players at all ages and levels.
😍 She’s an icon, she’s a legend and she is the moment.
— England Netball (@EnglandNetball) January 25, 2023
“I was always passionate about netball”
Clarke’s netball journey began around 30 years ago at Our Lady Of Lourdes Catholic Primary School, Manchester.
“I started at school when I was nine. We didn’t actually have a netball team at school so I was nagging my mum to start one so she could come in and coach us.
“I then got involved in a club outside of school, playing at Trafford Netball Club and then at Oldham Netball Club, and just went from there,” she said.
“My mum gave me every opportunity to just try every sport. I played tennis, cross country, athletics and hockey. I loved them all but netball was always my favourite. I was always passionate about it.”
Oldham proved to be the spot where Clarke would acquire her steely determination and discipline that she so often exudes on court. This, she said, all came from the club’s founder and coach.
“I had an inspirational coach in the form of Mike Greenwood, who created Oldham Netball Club. He was ex-Army so he just gave us amazing discipline. You would never miss a training session because, if you missed one, you wouldn’t get to play on the weekend.
“He would always take a group out to Australia every year and play us in ladies leagues. He just knew how to get the best out of you and how you could play at the very top level. I know I wouldn’t be where I am without Mike Greenwood.”
“It was amazing to have them as role models”
With the help of her grassroots coaches, Clarke constructed her own unique style. With television coverage of the sport unfortunately sparse when she was growing up, her sporting heroes were Team GB stars Sally Gunnell and Colin Jackson.
It was only when she joined the Vitality Roses squad for the first time in 2002 that she began to extrapolate any desired skills from her newfound netballing idols.
“It wasn’t really on television so it wasn’t until we had the Commonwealth Games in Manchester in 2002 that I got to see an England game. It was the following September that I got in the England team. As soon as I got on the team I looked up to Karen Atkinson and Olivia Murphy,” she said.
“It was like ‘I want to be like you’ – they were so fit, so skilful and had just done it all before so it was amazing to have them as role models.”
“We’re a family”
Clarke’s netball journey has always been centred around her family from her mum starting her first netball team to her elder sister showing her just how hard an England call-up would be.
“I had an older sister that would go to trials and would sometimes get on and sometimes wouldn’t. So, I always knew selection was down to other people but all you can do is be the best you can be,” she explained.
“I wanted to be good enough for England and wanted to be one of the best players in the world. I was really ambitious but, ultimately, I knew that the decision wasn’t down to me. I had a high drive and wanted to be the best I could be but I never knew whether I was going to play for England or not.”
It was in February 2003 when she made her international debut, taking to court at the AO Arena in her home city of Manchester against New Zealand.
Since then, she has helped win three medals at the Netball World Cup and four at the Commonwealth Games, including a historic gold against Australia in 2018.
That famous victory on the Gold Coast, watched by 1.8 million people, helped inspire over 100,000 women to start playing netball in the UK. The team were also recognised with several prestigious accolades including Team of the Year at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards.
And most recently, her influence and impact on the game was recognised in the New Year Honours list as she was awarded an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) for her services to netball.
Everyone at England Netball sends their congratulations to Jade on her historic milestone.