Winning a Commonwealth Games gold medal fulfilled the dream of a lifetime for England Netball’s record appearance holder Jade Clarke – and now she’s hungry for more.
England’s longstanding mid-court maestro, who already had two Commonwealth bronze medals to her name, was thrilled to finally clinch gold on the Gold Coast last year and now she is determined to help the Roses repeat their historic success when they play host to the Vitality Netball World Cup in Liverpool from 12-21 July.
She’s the most capped player in England’s history having represented her country at four netball World Cups and four Commonwealth Games, but the stakes have never felt higher for Jade as she prepares to make history with the Roses this summer.
“I always feel the nerves when I play in a major tournament, even more so this year,” she said.
“We’re trying to back up a gold medal, which has never been done before. We’ve worked so far to get this far and I would love to win another gold with this group of girls. The thought of doing it drives me forward. I want to make history with England.”
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England’s historic Commonwealth gold on the Gold Coast was a long time coming – and for no one more so than Jade Clarke.
The 35-year-old, who was first selected for the England squad in 2002, won her 150th cap as the Roses stunned home favourites Australia to be crowned Commonwealth Games champions last April.
Before the monumental win, England had reached five Commonwealth Games semi-finals in netball – and lost every one.
“I always believed we could win something. I didn’t want to stop until we got that gold medal,” added Jade.
“It really inspired us. It helped us to finally break that glass ceiling. It was always about Australia and New Zealand in the finals but our win has blown the competition wide open. There are so many other teams who are capable of winning it now. We want to step up to the challenge and beat the very best in the world.
“It’s going to be the best competition the fans have ever seen. We are so excited to be involved in it.”
Sixteen of the world’s best netball nations will head to Liverpool for the 15th edition of the tournament, with the number one ranked seed Australia contending to add a record twelfth title to their list of accolades.
But, as recent results in the January Quad series have shown, this year it is a wide-open field, with a number of teams fancying their chances.
“We don’t really have just one big opponent this year. In the past, it would always be Australia – the number one team in the world,” said Jade.
“They’re so consistent, and even when they get injuries they have so much depth.
“They’re a great side, but you can still say anyone is capable of beating anyone on their day.
“New Zealand went through a bit of a rough patch last year, but they’ve got amazing players in Laura Langman and Casey Kopua.
“South Africa has gone from strength to strength. They have an ex-Australian coach in Norma Plummer who has really helped them to improve.
“Jamaica hasn’t been in the final, but they’ve got plenty of incredible players in the best league in the world in Australia. They’ve got Jhaniele Fowler-Reid at one end and Shamera Sterling – one of the world’s best goalkeepers – at the other.
“You can’t really pick out one team. You can’t say you’re going to know the result of any single game. That’s the way it should be in the sport.”
With the competition more open than ever before, Jade says it is crucial for England to use the opportunity and build on the success the team had on the Gold Coast when they host the tournament in July – both on and off the court.
She said: “We really want to keep the momentum going by being successful at a home World Cup. It’s going to be so special for us to put on that red dress and play in front of our home fans. There is no better feeling.
“We captured the nation with our Commonwealth win and finally helped many find an interest in netball. We want to help more and more people get back into it now.
“I want to give back to the fans who have stuck with us and supported us for so long. Putting the colour of the medals aside, inspiring others is definitely one of our main goals. Everyone is so excited – there’s never been a better time to be involved in netball.
“We want to leave a legacy and do our bit for women’s sport in the UK. It’s going to be the best netball event ever.”
The England netball team, who are coached by Phil Neville’s twin sister Tracey, met up with the Lionesses at St George’s Park for a joint training session last year.
The Lionesses are preparing to embark on their own quest for glory this summer at the FIFA Women’s World Cup, taking place in France from June 7 – July 7 – and Jade believes in order for women’s sports to soar, female athletes, and fans, must support each other.
“We’re so inspired by the successes of the likes of the Lionesses,” she added.
“It was really nice to get to know them when we spent a day together at St George’s Park last year.
“Us women are across so many different sports, but we’re all on the same path.
“We all want to get our sports on television and into the mainstream media and prove our quality is worth watching.
“The more we talk about each other, watch each other and support each other, the better it’s going to get.
“We have a really nice relationship with them and we’ll be right behind them in June.”News Now - Sport News