Jodie Gibson had one main wish heading into the first match of the Vitality Netball International Series – to put on a show to reward the fans – and the Vitality Roses delivered.
Similarly to their successful Commonwealth Games campaign, the Roses showed their resilience as they held off a final-quarter rally by Uganda to win 50-46.
And Gibson was delighted to get the result in front of the home fans – both new and long-standing – who had stood by and supported the Roses in the early hours of the morning during the team’s history making exploits Down Under in April.
Speaking exclusively to England Netball, she said: “It was absolutely amazing! It was the first time playing on home soil since the Commonwealth Games and after all the support we’ve received from everyone, it was really nice to play in front of the home crowd.
“For me, being from Manchester and being a northerner, it was really nice to play in front of a northern crowd – they brought the energy and it was an amazing atmosphere!
“I guess as well it was a special moment because we were at Liverpool – the Vitality Netball World Cup venue.”
The defender also spotted some surprise supporters in the crowd – a few of her Severn Stars teammates!
She said: “I actually didn’t know they were coming along!
“It was nice to walk out and see them in the crowd.
“We obviously had Iona, Hali, Paige and Sam Bird involved with Roses A before our game so it was nice that Severn Stars were behind us.”
The Roses started the game well and led by seven at the end of the first quarter (15-8) before stretching out to nine in front at half time (30-21).
Gibson said: “We started really well and we attacked the game hard.
“Playing against the African style, there’s an element of the unknown because we don’t really play against that style on a regular basis – Uganda are a bit unorthodox.
“But I guess now we know how it feels, we’ve got video on it and there are so many conversations going on between the team and the coaching staff for new things we can work on going into the next game.
“I think we’re in a really exciting position, it was really good to get the win and we’re ready to take on game two.”
It wasn’t plain sailing for the Roses though as some missed shots and errors allowed Uganda to win the third quarter and cut the deficit (38-31).
With their confidence increasing, the She Cranes enjoyed a purple patch in the final quarter and drew level at 43-all with minutes remaining.
But the Roses kept their cool and, buoyed on by the vocal home crowd, edged out the world number sevens.
Discussing the team’s level-headed approach and improved mental strength, Gibson said: “At no time at all did I think we were going to lose the game.
“I think what this team has is resilience and previously if we were in that position, we may have lost the game but over the last year or so, we’ve developed resilience and I think we have a really good team ethic and lots of important values that we abide by.
“In those kind of times, we work together, we communicate more and play even harder for each other.
“I think it’s so evident on court – you can see all that.
“We wanted to put a show on for the fans as they were up at four o’clock in the morning watching the Commonwealth Games and came out on a Tuesday night to support us so that was for them.”
The Vitality Roses will go head-to-head with Uganda again on 30th November and 2nd December at the Copper Box Arena in London, as part of the highly anticipated three-match series.