Netball: Stacey Francis thinks Australia and New Zealand see England as contenders
By Dev Trehan
Last Updated: 23/07/14 12:45pm
Netballer Stacey Francis insists Australia and New Zealand will regard England as serious contenders for the gold medal at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games 2014.
Australia are ranked No1 in the world, just ahead of reigning Commonwealth champions New Zealand who are closely followed in third by England.
England meet Australia in Pool 2 next Friday and Team Bath defender Francis believes England can take heart from their historic Test series victory over their rivals 18 months ago
"We had an absolutely massive victory against Australia in 2012 when we beat them 3-0 at home and that is something that’s never happened before," Francis told Sky Sports.
"We're just starting to get these results against the top two teams which is really making a difference to our confidence. We're not just saying that we want to win and be the best, we are backing it up.
"I think that's putting us at the forefront of Australia’s and New Zealand’s minds whereas before I think they counted us out and expected a walk over.
"Now they are having to second guess and pay much more attention to the netball that we are bringing at them.
"We've had a complete overhaul of our netball programme in the past year and are trying to do different things in order to get completely different results.
"If we continued to do the same things, we’d continue to get bronze medals which we're not happy to settle for anymore.
“We want to be going for gold."
England's 12-strong Commonwealth squad features Manchester Thunder youngster Helen Housby but also includes seven players - in addition to Northern Mystics-bound Serena Guthrie - who have participated in the trans-Tasman ANZ league.
"There is no doubt that the ANZ is the best and most competitive netball league in the world," Francis said. "When I played there in 2012 every time you step on court it felt like an international.
“To have so many people in our team who have experienced the ANZ and played in and amongst key Australia and New Zealand players week-in, week-out can only make us stronger.
“Almost every single one of the girls playing over there this season got MVP for their team or league MVP and that speaks volumes about the strength and quality of English players now.
“We’re not just being looked at to fill gaps but are now the star players of the teams out there and I think that that’s fantastic.”