So far, so good as England show total belief in gold standard
Commonwealth victory has taken pressure off the players for their World Cup challenge
We are halfway through the World Cup now and, from an England perspective, it has been pretty much perfect. They are performing on the court and using the crowd as a tool to push them on with no fear. So far, so good.
Even though the games in the first group stage are pretty straightforward, they always provide a sense of how a team are going to perform, and England were one of the two top sides to really impress me – the other being New Zealand.
England’s whole squad of 12 – before Layla Guscoth’s injury –
look really strong and they also appear to be happy, which is always a good sign.
They seem to be in a different frame of mind now they are Commonwealth champions. I know from a domestic level that the first time I won the Superleague as a coach it took so much pressure off the following year. It is not that you want to win the next competition any less, but you have already got a medal in the bag, so you know what it takes and it does not feel as desperate in those big moments. You can see that in how England play now with total belief.
The reason they and New Zealand have stuck out is how they have adapted in different games, used their squad and been clinical. Even though Australia are unbeaten and have scored plenty of goals against weak opposition, the one game that stuck out was their victory over Zimbabwe, when they clearly became frustrated.
I have seen England do that in the past against a side playing with aggression and power, but they kept to their plan to beat Uganda, and New Zealand did the same
England were one of the two top sides to really impress me – the other being New Zealand
when they played Zimbabwe. It is only Australia who have been affected. That is only a little thing, but in goal-for-goal games at the end of the tournament those small elements are heightened and could be crucial.
Before the competition, I had tipped Jamaica to be in with a big chance of reaching the final, but they have been disappointing and will not be in the knockout stage. They seem underprepared, but England still had to put in a decent performance to beat them because a Jamaica team fighting for survival will always be hard, whether they are playing well or not.
Tracey Neville did not have to make a single substitution in that game, because Jamaica changed
first and she was able to persist with her starting seven. It was a crunch game and she wouldn’t have been thinking about getting her players rest. Now they have won it and all but secured their semi-final spot, rest and rotation are things they can look at when they face Trinidad & Tobago today.
I do not think freshness will be an issue for England at any point, even with the loss of Layla. I know it is unusual compared to other sports that we play back-to-back each day and cannot replace an injured player, but netballers prepare for this.
The main impact is that Layla would have been a starting player and her presence would have allowed Tracey to rotate the likes of Eboni Usoro-brown and Jade Clarke against the bigger teams. Now you have lost an impact change and Layla’s absence has created a tactical issue by limiting England’s options.
Away from England, the main story in Liverpool has been the emergence of Zimbabwe. Four years ago it was Malawi who captured our hearts and Zimbabwe
We now have five teams with realistic ambitions to make a final, which is more than ever before
have done it here. They have been incredible on court, where they have some really good players, and their fans have been amazing in cheering every ball for 60 minutes when they play. They took it to the Aussies and they are fearless.
They have shown the talent is there lower down and we have to ensure we help these teams develop so the sport grows. We now have five teams with realistic ambitions to make a final, which is more than ever before, but the reality is there is a huge gap between them and the next group.
Everyone in netball needs to make sure that as the top teams become more professional we don’t leave the other nations further behind.