Pamela Cookey hails retiring England captain Serena Guthrie's influence on netball
Serena Guthrie announced her retirement from the sport on Wednesday; the 32-year-old made her debut for England back in 2008 as a teenager and made 110 appearances for her country; she has represented England at three Netball World Cups and two Commonwealth Games
Last Updated: 10/03/22 6:06am
Pamela Cookey has hailed Serena Guthrie's influence on the sport of netball, after the England captain announced her retirement on Wednesday.
Former England captain Cookey was part of Team Bath Netball's iconic Superleague-winning side with Guthrie and represented the Roses alongside the now retired 32-year-old.
Guthrie, England's current captain, announced that she is pregnant with her first child and has made the decision to retire from both international and elite-level netball.
The news means that the 110-cap mid-courter will not be available for England's Commonwealth Games title defence in Birmingham later this year.
England head to the Games aiming to replicate the success they achieved on the Gold Coast in 2018, but must do so without a player Cookey believes is one of the best to have played the game.
"Serena is phenomenal and this is such a sad loss for the netball community, for England, Team Bath and for the sport in general," Cookey told Sky Sports News.
"At the same time, I'm so pleased for her with what's to come with her family and their next steps.
"As a player, Serena was just outstanding - sometimes the skills she put out there defied the laws of physics. The way that she could take interceptions, keep the ball on court and work that ball through for her team-mates [was incredible].
"She was a powerhouse in terms of what she could do on the court, her leadership and how she delivered with her game play.
"Serena won four Superleague titles with Team Bath, so she was at the top of her game there. For England, she was part of the first squad to win the FastNet series and part of the squad that beat Australia in a 3-0 whitewash in 2013 for the first time.
"She was integral in England's amazing achievement of winning gold on the Gold Coast at the Commonwealth Games in 2018 too. Recently, she was instrumental in a first-ever series win over the Silver Ferns in New Zealand.
"Serena just did so many firsts [in the sport] and as a person and a player, she's legendary."
Guthrie came through the ranks alongside Cookey at Team Bath Netball and the duo were part of a team that produced many of the sport's greatest athletes, including Geva Mentor, Tamsin Greenway and Rachel Dunn.
At the time, she was in the formative years of her career but, even during those early days, it was clear that Guthrie had a spark and an energy few others could match.
"Her free-spirited nature meant that she just made things fun, whether that was in training, in the changing room or on court," Cookey noted. "With Serena, you always felt like you were in a bubble with her, and she was bringing people along with her energy and passion.
"As a person, she held herself to such a high level of accountability [and standards] and as team-mates around her, you wanted to go with her and be part of that.
"Serena did that in such a special way too. You always felt like she had your back, that she was rooting for you and doing her utmost to make sure that everyone around her succeeded as well.
"As a player she was phenomenal but as a person and a leader, England Netball were so lucky that she stepped up and took that on when she was given the chance."
Former England head coach Tracey Neville, who appointed Guthrie to the role of captain before a home World Cup, made it clear why she had done so at the time.
"She speaks out and sweats world class," Neville said of Guthrie, back in 2019.
"She was flabbergasted [when I told her she was captain] and I think that the phone call to her was quite emotional. I got quite teary about it because it probably wasn't something she was expecting.
"With Serena, she probably underestimates herself more than anybody else. In our eyes she's a world-class player. She's a beautiful person and so valuable as a team member."
As a netballing nation, England have produced some outstanding athletes, individuals who have defined the game in their country.
The likes of Mentor, Layla Guscoth, Eboni Usoro-Brown, Jo Harten and Jade Clarke are still playing international level netball. There are others too, including Cookey, Neville, Karen Atkinson, Olivia Murphy, Greenway and Sonia Mkoloma, to name but a few, who hung up their dresses a while ago.
As a former England captain and someone who continues to study netball, commentate on the sport and provide astute analysis, Cookey is well-placed to position Guthrie within the ranks of England's elite.
"Serena is way up there, in terms of England's greatest players," Cookey noted.
"She's arguably one of the greatest wing defences and centres that we've ever had in terms of her attacking game and her defensive game. I would call her a GOAT [greatest of all time].
"She's just that sort of player; fans love her, players love her and coaches love working with her. She just has it all.
"Netball has a come a long way and it's because of people like Serena and what she's done both on and off the court," Cookey concluded. "The way she speaks about the sport, champions it and gets other people on board to share in her vision for it.
"She will just continue to do that now she's not playing and it's only a good thing for our game to have someone like her, continuing to push it forward."