Scotland can go toe-to-toe with the best, says Claire Nelson
Watch every game of July's showpiece in Liverpool on Sky Sports Netball and via our YouTube channel, which will show all 60 games
By Chloe Merrell
Last Updated: 09/07/19 12:01pm
On July 12, Scotland will begin their Vitality Netball World Cup campaign against Samoa. Off the back of their highest world ranking, Sky Sports spoke to Scotland Netball CEO Claire Nelson about targets on and off the court and the perfect combination of youth and experience.
The Scottish Thistles arrive in Liverpool ahead of netball's showpiece already celebrating.
The International Netball Federation shook things up when they announced a new set of rankings ending June 30.
Scotland, who were previously in eighth, rose to seventh to take the country's highest ever ranking, and Nelson could not hide her excitement when asked what it meant to her.
"We're not a big nation, we're a young team so to know that we're going in seventh in the world really is a fantastic boost," Nelson told Sky Sports.
"We've worked really, really hard, we've had some great results over the last couple of years and for us to secure that position going into World Cup, is not only fantastic for our sport, and our people and all the hard work we've put into rising up the world rankings over the last few years.
"It's just the best mental and emotional boost going into a competition like this."
🌍| WORLD RANKINGS| Did we say 8th in the world? Because as of the 1st of July 2019 the @ScotThistles have moved to 7th in the @IntNetball World Rankings! 🏴 #SucceedAsATeam— Netball Scotland (@NetballScotland) July 1, 2019
To view the rankings see 👇 https://t.co/W9EH7GzK71 pic.twitter.com/xjeELut6Fi
Maintaining the momentum bolstered by the new set of rankings form part of Scotland's ambitions for the tournament, but the traditional placings matches, double group stages give the Thistles a chance of progress.
"Our target is top eight, you know, that is going to be tough. We're in a tough group, it's going to be a challenge but that is absolutely what we should be working towards.
"The work that we've done in Test matches, world competitions and how we performed at the Commonwealth Games last year has meant we have set that target for ourselves. I know that the coaches and the players are certainly looking to surpass that, as anything above eight will be fantastic for us.
"I think what's really come out in our sport, over the last two years, is that you cannot predict the scoreline going into any game, so we are going in to fight every single match and to finish as high up as we possibly can."
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This ambition to finish top eight may seem like a tall order for a squad that has an average age of 24 but Nelson was quick to defend her side's relative inexperience and instead pointed to what youth can offer a national team.
"These guys are coming in believing, it's a new era for Scotland. Our youngsters believe that we can win on the world stage, they believe that we are a team that can go toe-to-toe with the best.
"Yes we have got a young team but we had a young team going into the Commonwealth Games and that's really exciting for us because the talent we are producing as a country now is really what is going to help us to continue to go up those rankings and start to become one of the most exciting and competitive nations in the world.
"Coupled with real skill and experience from the likes of Claire [Maxwell] but also Lyndsey Gallagher and Hayley Mulheron, we're hoping that that's going to be a really powerful combination for us."
"Claire Maxwell at any age is a fantastic addition to any squad. Certainly she is respected both by the experienced players but also those youngsters. When you think about the age of Emma Barrie coming in just really a few months into her 17th year learning from Claire Maxwell, having that support having her guidance is going to be invaluable."
It would also be a mistake discount the squad based on the fact that 78% of the sides caps are held by three players because to do so would ignore this side's greatest advantage.
11 members of the 12-strong squad Parata has selected to compete in Liverpool form part of Scottish Superleague franchise Strathclyde Sirens.
Unlike other international squads which will use a camp format for their World Cup preparations whereby players are all called back from their various clubs to line-up a few weeks before the tournament begins, the Thistles have been building and preparing their squad throughout the regular domestic season.
"We made that decision, myself and Gail Parata, our performance director, at the start of the season so we would use the Superleague to be our preparation ground," explained Nelson who also doubles as the Sirens CEO.
However, it was not without its challenges. The Glasgow-based outfit finished second from bottom in the Vitality Superleague end-of-season standings.
"When you're in the midst of the season, you are losing more matches than you're winning it is difficult maybe to pull yourself out of that and see the bigger picture.
"We knew coming off the back of the Commonwealth Games and the World Cup qualifiers that we had talent, but they were young so we had to expose them to that world-class training and competition and I think now the girls are really seeing and feeling the benefit, as is Gail.
"The ability to be able to work with your squad, week-in and week-out, and to build those connections and those tactics is just something I think is really valuable going into this competition. Hopefully the decision that we made will pay off in terms of results."
The Thistles will certainly be hoping that their longer term training strategy does provide them with an advantage as the Preliminary stage one phase of the tournament offers them a fair amount of challenge.
They find themselves in Group D alongside England, Uganda and Samoa.
"The England game will be exciting, it always is, but Uganda and Samoa are the ones we are going to win.
"When we go out to play England we want to put out a really good game against them. We want to narrow our margins, we want to make sure that we are consistently competitive that we create some problems for them and that we put on a really good game. But we also have to realistic about what we want to achieve in our group stages.
"Uganda I think, is going to be the real challenge one for us, and the one that I'm most looking forward to seeing how we perform against.
"Samoa, I would like to think, we are going to win that game but again as I said, anybody can beat anyone, it really is about our girls having that self-belief, strong execution, keep those errors really, really low and play beyond their potential."
The Thistles round off the first day of action in Liverpool when they take to the court for the first time against Samoa. All eyes will be on them and this summer's spectacle which is increasingly being tipped as the most open Netball World Cup to date.
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