Joanne Harten hoping to fire Vitality Roses bid for Netball World Cup glory
"We want to make the final and that was always the goal before our gold medal last year."
By Rebecca Chaplin
Last Updated: 29/06/19 11:29am
As one of English netball's best exports, Jo Harten's career has gone from strength-to-strength since she moved to the Antipodes eight years ago and she is hoping she can fire the Roses bid for World Cup gold.
Harten has been plying her trade in Australia and New Zealand since 2012 and where once she was one of a handful playing in the Southern Hemisphere, it was noticeable on Friday how many England stars joined the training camp in Manchester following the conclusion of the Super Netball season.
It's a mark of the Roses' rise that Harten was joined by Layla Guscoth, Geva Mentor, Nat Haythornthwaite, Helen Housby and Chelsea Pitman in linking up with the rest of the England squad in Manchester.
Harten will have a key role to play and has plenty of pedigree to back it up. A virtual ever-present, barring injury, in the squad over the last 10 years, she has also managed more than 500 Suncorp goals in her seven years playing for Canterbury Tactix, Waikato Magic and GIANTS Netball.
"I love living here. Asides from my career, I love the lifestyle and I think the two go hand-in-hand," Harten said.
"I love playing the sport here, it's so professional and at the top of its game- that's where I want to be."
The lifestyle in Australia clearly agrees with the attacker and it has also led to her discovering new passions.
As a die-hard Aussie rules fan she is hesitant to follow Australian netballer Sharni Layton into playing the sport, mainly due to the full-contact element playing havoc on her body while in the middle of a netball season.
The Australian football league has fascinated the netballer since her time in New Zealand, so much so that she's even enjoyed a private coaching session in the sport, arranged by her GIANTS coach Julie Fitzgerald.
Netball, however, remains Harten's main focus and she thrives on being able to play at the top level in Australia where the sport enjoys a profile bigger than anywhere else in the world, although Britain's Superleague reputation continues to rise.
"We're getting to that stage back home, more people are paying attention after the gold medal and it feels as though we don't have to beg the media as much to put us in the papers- people want to read about it and watch it on TV."
Australians live and breathe netball; the sport is still the No 1 female sport in the country and the stadiums that the games are showcased in, and crowds that they attract, speak volumes.
Netball has provided Harten with a career that has spanned three World Cups and the same number of Commonwealth Games, as well as providing her with a firm friendship group.
The camaraderie among the Roses has been evident during the four-year cycle under Tracey Neville and Harten has been fortunate to share that experience with best friend and Roses captain Serena Guthrie, a team-mate at the Giants and another to have made her home in Australia.
A hurricane to live with according to Harten, Guthrie returned to Team Bath this year and got engaged herself following the conclusion of the Superleague season.
It's meant some belated growing up for Harten who now lives on her own and has viewed the process as a coming of age year having turned 30 in March.
However, from a young age, Harten knew she wanted to play in an England dress - telling her dad at the age of eight that she would one day represent her country.
It was the idea of a team working together to get the ball down the court to score that really stood out for the shooter, who made the sport her life from the age of five.
Essex-born Harten rose through the county netball ranks, before being selected for England U17s and hasn't looked back since, although the balancing act of playing international netball and studying at Loughborough University wasn't quite so straight forward.
"I actually didn't turn up for my first lecture and didn't tell the lecturer, I had no idea because I was away on tour with England," Harten recalls with a smile.
"I just rocked up for Freshers' Week thinking it was going to be fine and the University didn't even know I had enrolled. It was a big wake-up call."
Despite the Superleague's continued growth, there are obvious differences with the game in Australia.
Harten is all too aware that the pay is very different for netballers who can seek a full-time career in the Southern Hemisphere but in terms of skill level, the gap between the two leagues is closing since it has moved away from the University franchises.
The netballer from Essex, a self-confessed netball geek who used to get videos sent over from Melbourne to study Australian shooter Sharelle McMahon's technique, can now count herself as one of the best shooters in the world.
But she has absolutely relished the opportunities that have arisen since her sport was catapulted in the domestic spotlight and grabbed the world's attention last April following Commonwealth gold - her young nephew is especially pleased.
"At Sports Personality of the Year, I knew Harry Kane would be there so I brought a Spurs shirt along with me, with the idea that he would sign it for my nephew.
"But when the moment came, I got too nervous, which never really happens, so it was all thanks to Serena Guthrie that I actually managed to get a signed Tottenham shirt for my nephew, she really helped me out with auntie duties!"
While netball as a sport is riding the wave of success from the Commonwealths, Harten and the Roses will put it to the back of their minds and start the upcoming World Cup in Liverpool with a clean slate.
"I think we almost need to put that tournament to bed and just focus on the here and now," said Harten, who will earn her 100th England cap this summer.
"We want to make the final and that was always the goal before our gold medal last year - my saying is that 'anything can happen in a final' so we just have to get there.
"We've blown the gates wide open now, we don't know who's going to beat who on any given day, which is great for the event and for the sport, but it is scary as an athlete."
England are now ranked second in the world, the final may even be the minimum target but any celebrations will be short-lived for the players, just like at the Commonwealth Games.
The relentless nature of domestic and international netball will see the Australian league pause for one month, before resuming the weekend after the World Cup final and Harten will be whisked straight back to where she now calls home whatever the outcome.
Four more rounds will follow, before three weeks of finals will finally give way to a chance of letting her hair down. Having turned 30 earlier this year, how does a professional athlete plan to celebrate a milestone birthday and an action packed 18 months of netball? Las Vegas, of course.
Watch every match of the 2019 Vitality Netball World Cup 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