Vitality England Roses head coach Tracey Neville building towards Netball World Cup
By Emma Thurston
Last Updated: 06/04/19 4:20pm
On Friday July 12 Tracey Neville and her Vitality England Roses side will start their bid to achieve the ultimate prize in sport and be crowned world champions on home soil.
After securing a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast and beating the Australian Diamonds again in January's Quad Series, the Roses are well-placed going into the Vitality Netball World Cup.
On a milestone day - exactly 100 days to go before the start of the tournament - head coach Neville sat down with Sky Sports to discuss the team's recent lessons, the task they face, what it means to lead the team in the North West and the impact of the competition on the sport in England.
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"I think that we've had a great international series - one of the positive things that we did after the Commonwealth Games was to shut the door and concentrate on what we had ahead," Neville told Sky Sports News.
"Through that we've had some really good successes but we've also had some losses which we obviously need to learn from.
"I think that one of the things that we've learnt is that when you win, celebrate it and when you lose learn from it."
Since their Gold Coast triumph, the highs of the Roses' international period have included victories over the sides that have dominated the Netball World Cup stage for so many years - New Zealand and Australia.
The former are a slightly different proposition than they used to be, looking to build back to the force they once were, however the latter remain strong and focused.
The Roses' matches to take lessons from include a Netball Quad Series defeat to South Africa and a Test series loss against Jamaica in which some of the younger Roses could not find a way to victory.
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Neville has been in charge of the international side since 2015 - an interim position turned into a permanent one. When she was confirmed fully in the role, the coach stated her goal was to make the side "the best in the world".
Now, as the most important competition in world netball gets ever closer, the Roses are sitting second in the International Netball Federation Rankings. It is a position that is both a blessing and a curse.
"We have hit world ranking No 2. For the 20 years that I've been an athlete and coach it's somewhere that I've always aspired to be at," said the former England shooter.
"The consequence of that is that we've probably got one of the hardest run-ins. If I'd have sat here five years ago we probably would have been happy with the run that we had to the final, however we've now got to face some really tough countries."
Neville already looking at the route to the final is not her displaying false confidence or any amount of arrogance... far from it. Instead it is down to the fact that the home side need to be as thorough as possible in their preparations, their goal is to win the tournament and that is that.
"We've got Uganda, we potentially could face Trinidad and Tobago, South Africa, Jamaica and anyone knows that we actually lost to two of those countries [South Africa and Jamaica]," noted Neville.
"Now [in elite netball] it's about win and loss. When you go out onto the court no team knows the outcome because the performance level of the players is so high that it's just about getting those one-per-cent margins and the one-per-cent differences."
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The Roses head coach first represented her country in 1993 and finished her career with 81 international caps. There are few in the sporting world that can say they have taken the international side they played for to a World Cup as a coach.
"I think to lead my country in the North West to a Netball World Cup probably is something that you aspire to do as a coach," said Neville.
"Taking away the winning after winning or the success that we had at the Commonwealth Games, I think I've been now at two major events where the fans have had an impact on that ranked team in the competition.
"So to go into this World Cup with our own support, Sky Sports filming every game, the support from social media and people around us, everywhere we walk wanting us to do well [is special].
"We saw the impact that London 2012 had on our nation and on sport in general and the ambassadors that came out of that, and that's the only thing that we want to create coming out of this tournament."
When you can mark the amount of days to go until a major tournament with a specific number it makes that competition even more tangible for all.
Right now, the Vitality Netball Superleague is in full flow, the Roses that are playing in Australia will start their Super Netball season soon and in a flash we will all be marking 50 days to go, then 10 and five before enjoying Day One.
In England, netball's wave of momentum continues to build, the conversation around the sport is growing and the national side's head coach is eager to see that continue.
"I've seen the energy today, we've obviously been celebrating 100 days to the World Cup, and the impact that the Commonwealth Games had on my sport.
"For someone that has been in the sport since I was five-years-old, and my role model was my Mum who is still continuing to play sport, we impacted 130,000 people in three months after that Commonwealth Games.
"You talk about impact of sport and it's not just about the performance level it's about the social, the fun, the interaction, the participation.
"Netball isn't just about playing it, it's about getting involved and being with your friends, family and just meeting new people and I think that's what netball creates."
Watch every match of the Vitality Netball World Cup 2019 live on Sky Sports. Coverage starts on Friday, July 12 plus keep up to date with all of the latest competition news, results and enjoy in-depth features at SkySports.com/netball