Ten days, 68 matches, sell-out crowds, single point victories and single point defeats all culminating in the entire nation talking about Netball.
Described as the best World Cup in netball history, English netball fans have witnessed tears, laughter and celebration as their heroines, the Vitality Roses, stormed through the competition, remaining undefeated until the final weekend where they fell short in the semi-finals, only to come back fighting and secure a bronze medal in front of a sea of red.
With a mix of debutants, centurions and the highest ever capped player in English netball history, the fantastic and vibrant Vitality Roses looked back on the last ten days;
In her final outing as Head Coach for the Vitality Roses, Tracey Neville commented;
“You talk about your dream of having a stadium in red and white shouting your name, shooting England. They kept us in the game yesterday and they made us get over the line today. They were absolutely phenomenal. A massive shout out to the Tracey Neville lookalikes, you actually look quite better than me, so well done to them.
“This World Cup has probably been one of the best World Cups there has ever been. The competition at the highest level, the number of teams that can take any win at any point is where it’s moving to. If I think back to playing, it was always England playing for bronze with Jamaica and South Africa. Now, those two semi-finals were absolute spectacles to watch. As a coach it wasn’t but from a fans point of view that’s what netball is all about; that any team can take it at any point. We hope the way international netball is going will continue.
Making her World Cup debut, Nat Panagarry described the experience;
“I’m ecstatic. It’s my first medal, first major tournament and first Vitality Netball World Cup. It’s been an absolute whirlwind and has been better than I ever could have imagined. I’ve learned so much and thrived off the experience. I know it wasn’t the medal that we wanted at first but I think some of the performances we’ve put out at this tournament have been phenomenal. It’s huge and I think now that there are four or five teams fighting for those medals anything can happen.
“The fans have been phenomenal, it’s taken our breath away with how loud they’ve been. I got goose bumps every time I was out on court or even at the fan park and on social media. It’s just been incredible and we can’t thank them enough. We’re getting loads of messages on social media every day on Instagram, Twitter and everything! We do see them, we do read them and it really does feel absolutely amazing. When we step out on the court, we feel that love and support. We couldn’t ask anymore from all the fans.”
Rachel Dunn also credited the home crowd to their success;
“You walk into that stadium and just the roars you get, I don’t think there’s anything like that, there’s nothing like a home World Cup. Every time we’ve walked out the crowd have been immense, it has just been an amazing experience for the last nine days.
“Winning gold at a home World Cup would’ve been amazing but no, I don’t think anything will top it in terms of a home event because all of your friends and family are here as well, you’ve got the crowd. It has just been such a special tournament.”
Also making her World Cup debut was young defender, Fran Williams;
“I just feel so elated. This whole experience from start to finish, even with the lows in between I’ve learnt so much and gained so much from the whole experience so it has been nothing but positive and to come away with a medal for all of our hard work, I’m so proud of the team.”
Roses stalwart and veteran goal keeper, Geva Mentor highlighted the importance of a home World Cup on the country’s development within the sport;
“I’ve never been a part of something like this before and I think testament to the crowd and the atmosphere that’s been created here and through this whole build-up and it was important after winning Commonwealth Games gold last year that we continued. We didn’t just want it to be a one-off and I think we’ve shown during the week that we’ve improved.
“I think this has to have a positive effect [on netball in England]. So many people are talking about it and so many people are getting involved whether they are playing or helping out. After the Gold Coast last year, we really wanted to make sure we were consistent and kept the sport in a good light. I think what we’ve managed to do throughout this tournament is just create that support and long may it continue.”
England Netball now turn their focus to tomorrow’s Biggest Netball Open Day where they’re opening up over 200 netball courts for those inspired by the World Cup to come along and try the sport for the first time, get back into it or to just enjoy playing with friends and teammates.