Netball World Cup: Tracey Neville proud of squad after securing bronze
By Paul Prenderville, M&S Bank Arena, Liverpool
Last Updated: 22/07/19 7:07am
Tracey Neville reflected on a job well done for England but a sense of "unfinished business" as the Vitality Roses secured a bronze medal for the outgoing head coach.
England beat South Africa in Neville's final game in charge to claim third place for the third successive World Cup but it was a tournament notable for how the top of the game has changed.
Neville and her squad upset the world order by winning Commonwealth Games gold medal on the Gold Coast last year, and expectation has rocketed as a result.
Hopes of a home trophy lift at the M&S Bank Arena were halted by eventual champions New Zealand who stunned the defending champions in a thrilling final on Sunday. Ultimately bronze was not the colour Neville and the squad had desired.
"100 per cent," she said when asked if there was unfinished business to the end of her tenure.
"We set up a programme that I think is one of the best high-performance programmes in the world with our centralised programme and I hope to see in the next few years we start to move to more professional athletes.
"At the end of the tournament sometimes you're just glad it's over. I know that sounds really sad. It's a gruelling, gruelling tournament and it's been a gruelling four years.
"But more importantly I was just really proud of the girls. The tears I feel are the fact that these have become my friends, my family and the people that I live with day in, day out. They said that they played for me but they played for themselves tonight.
"That is the true character of our Roses."
Neville was also quick to praise her players' ability to turn around the disappointment of Saturday's loss in order to dominate South Africa and ensure they were on the podium in their home tournament.
"The girls were absolutely gutted last night, so was I. We didn't play the performance that we'd been doing through the tournament," noted Neville.
"To turn that around overnight, without a training session and just with some real hard truths between each other, working together and doing video until late and in the early morning, was absolutely phenomenal of the girls.
"I was just so pleased with the way that they came out and showed the culture of the team, the fact that one game doesn't get them down and that's a massive plus for this team."
The futures of several players are likely to come under scrutiny but that will be a conversation for another day, instead the individuals themselves were full of praise for Neville's role.
Captain Serena Guthrie led the plaudits for a coach that has implemented the first professional programme for the sport in this country and made possible, the previously insurmountable obstacle of winning a major gold medal.
"Tracey has just grown and grown since she joined us. I think today is a proud moment for her," said Guthrie.
"We said that we wanted to send her off on a high, it's not the colour [medal] that we wanted but it's the colour that we ended up with and the colour that we fought for in the end."
Jo Harten is someone who has been there for the duration under Neville. She made her England debut back in 2007 and was instrumental in helping them to secure this bronze medal. Harten knows that it will be strange to be working under someone else in the future.
"It's hard to imagine what it will be like without Tracey because we've been under her for four years and she's so passionate and we're all such believers of her work now," said the prolific shooter.
"It wasn't always like that, we didn't always follow suit because it was a bit of a rocky start but to be without her is going to be very strange.
"Her mannerisms, the way that she addresses us in the changing room are second to none. She's got such passion and we've got a lot of love for her in this group."
England Netball said before the tournament that there would be no announcement on a new coach until after the World Cup and as thoughts turn to her successor, Neville was understandably tight-lipped, preferring to focus on the health of British coaching options.
"I absolutely had no idea who my successor was or is. I look at what we've got in England and we've got some absolutely instrumental coaches in Tamsin Greenway, Karen Atkinson, Olivia Murphy, Karen Greg, Mel Mansfield, Kat Ratnapala … there are some phenomenal coaches.
"For me, the English coaches have breathed the culture, they know the history and they know how to take a team forward. I think that history has shown that and I hope that we can appoint an English coach."
Netball is back on your screens in October with the Fast5 All Stars Championship. We will cover all the drama of the off-season as Superleague teams begin to shape their squads for the 2020 season which you can follow on Sky Sports.