Team England Commonwealth Games Netball Squad: Meet the Defence

Eboni Usoro-Brown of England Netball during Team Englands Birmingham 2022 Immersion Camp - July 23rd 2022 in Loughborough. Photo by Chris Reynolds / Team England

Geva Mentor, Eboni Usoro-Brown, Stacey Francis-Bayman and Layla Guscoth will be a force to be reckoned with as they represent Team England at Birmingham 2022 this summer.

Mentor is gearing up for a sixth Commonwealth Games – a joint record in netball with Barbados’ Latonia Blackman – while Usoro-Brown is set for her fourth and first as a mother.

Proud Brummies Guscoth (Commonwealth Games debut) and Francis-Bayman (3rd appearance) make up the defensive unit.

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Describing the Team England defence as a group, Head Coach Jess Thirlby said: “So the best way to describe our defensive unit is scary! We ask in our Roses way for us to have a real presence in defence and I think we’re definitely not short of that – we’ve got that in abundance.

“I definitely wouldn’t want to play against them and I think we’ve got a real combination of experience and a real intelligent defensive unit that I think can combat any of our toughest opposition so really looking forward to working through which partnerships are best placed to overcome the biggest challenges that we’ll face in Birmingham.”

Here Thirlby guides you through each defender individually and celebrates their impact both within the squad and on the wider sporting community…

Geva Mentor

What an achievement for any athlete across any sport to go to a sixth Commonwealth Games – it doesn’t feel possible but it’s only because of how brilliant a player Geva was when she broke onto the scene.

She’s an incredible talent and a fantastic role model. She’s really helped fly the flag for us across that netball globe having spent so long now overseas.

But she is still very much one of us, part of our family and I’m really proud to watch her march out as a real icon for our sport and our team.

Eboni Usoro-Brown

Having known Eboni for as long as I have working with her as a 19 / 20-year-old,  I think she’s such a fantastic role model and has been for all of her career in terms of that dual-career athlete.

Now to be returning to the biggest stage since having her daughter Savannah, I think is inspiring – I know it inspires all of us, particularly across the playing group – and it’s a strong and empowering message across the world to many new mums now that are returning back to netball. 

I look up to Eboni – literally! – and look up to her with respect and it’s great that she’s going to be able to play in front of her daughter.

Stacey Francis-Bayman

It’s been eight years since her last Commonwealth Games campaign so I know this is an emotional one for her being able to have worked her way back into the team.

She offers us such versatility in that defensive end and has had a fantastic season domestic season in Super Netball so I think it’s brilliant that she reconnects with players like Eboni and Geva, with whom she’s played with over a long period of time.

It’s exciting to see them come back together and it promises really great things for us as a defensive unit.

Layla Guscoth

I’m just super proud and pleased for her that she’s been able to put in a couple of years of real hard graft – mentally and physically, it’s always tough for anyone to return from injury.

To have got injured on a home stage last time (2019 Netball World Cup in Liverpool) and to give herself a chance now to not just walk out on home soil but where she was born and brought up, I think is really special for her.

She’s in the form of her life and lots is spoken about the fact we’ve got the best defender in the world right now but for us, we’ve always spoken about the strength in the unit and Layla will certainly spearhead that end of the court.

She couldn’t have asked more of herself. She’s getting to the starting line in the best condition possible and with fantastic form in the Vitality Netball Superleague so we’re really lucky to have her back in the fold.

The Team England squad will start their Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games campaign, as they look to defend their 2018 title, on Friday 29 July. 

Here’s a guide to the competition, including how you can follow all the action.

If you’re new to our sport and want to have a go yourself, we have programmes for everyone aged 5 to 95 from Bee Netball for children, to Back to Netball for those returning, to Walking Netball, a slower version of the game we love. Through the netball finder on our homepage, simply select play and enter your postcode and you’ll find a variety of sessions in your area.

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