England Netball's new head coach Jess Thirlby is set for the road ahead
By Emma Thurston
Last Updated: 30/07/19 6:23am
England's new head coach Jess Thirlby is set for the road ahead as the Vitality Roses move into a new four-year cycle.
Thirlby was announced as the successor to Tracey Neville just a few days ago, after Neville's tenure ended with a bronze medal at the Netball World Cup in Liverpool.
Former international Thirlby, who represented England from 1991-2006, is aware that her movement into the role and the final whistle at the recent World Cup, marks the end of a chapter.
The four-year cyclical nature of the sport, means that her attention will turn to the Commonwealth Games in 2022 and then the next Netball World Cup in Cape Town the year after.
"I think that the end of any four-year cycle, particularly in our sport, there's always a period where athletes and staff need to have a break [mentally and physically] and just consider what the future might look like for them," said Thirlby to Sky Sports.
"You've got a cohort of players here that have been on this journey for a long time. I know that the sport has been catapulted over the last couple of years due to the amazing success that they've had.
"But, what's not seen is that this has been a 12/13-year journey for a number of those players. So, it's only right that they're afforded some time to consider if they've got it in them to stay a bit longer. Maybe it will just be a break and then they return to the programme?
"Will there be younger players? Absolutely but not younger players that haven't already been exposed to this Roses programme. Tracey and the team have already done a fantastic job at looking at that next layer."
The next layer of players is likely to include some of the younger members of Neville's 2019 World Cup squad like Wasps Netball's Fran Williams and Loughborough Lightning's Nat Panagarry.
Outside of the 12 that were in Liverpool there are others, some of whom went on the tour to Jamaica last year - Razia Quashie, Ella Clark, Eleanor Cardwell, Summer Artman and a fit-again Layla Guscoth - who has less than 20 caps to her name.
The element now for Thirlby and the national programme will be how to replicate the type of conveyor belt of continued success that Australia and New Zealand have shown in the past.
Outside of netball the All Blacks are the masters of succession planning in the modern sporting era, having managed better than any other side at bridging the gaps between World Cups. Thirlby herself knows a sharp focus is required to drive the momentum on.
"I think that it's important that we stay very honest and that we reflect on and celebrate what's made us successful in the recent years. But, that we're also not complacent about the hard work that needs to be continued in order to get another cohort of players ready for the next big cycle."
For now, the players that ply their trade in the Vitality Netball Superleague are enjoying summer and a break while those that are part of Suncorp Super Netball sides are powering on and have returned straight to competitive netball.
As Thirlby steps into the ultimate coaching job in England, the support for her has been widespread and wholesome from former team-mates to fans and players.
All in the world of netball know that taking on this role, at this time, is a big task but an exciting one. At this point, when some players are still considering their next steps, the true direction of the road ahead is unknown.
It may be that three or four experienced players step away from the Roses' programme or it may be that sabbaticals are taken and players return for another hit at a Commonwealth Games and then a Netball World Cup.
Regardless, Thirlby must drive through the less experienced individuals and give them the tools to step up and be counted for on the greatest of national stages.
The talent is there but gaining that experience may mean that a few hits are taken in the early part of this next four-year cycle. The new national coach will know that and without question will be prepared for it.
Netball is back on your screens in October with the Fast5 All Stars Championship. We will cover all the twists and turns of the off-season as the Vitality Netball Superleague teams begin to shape their squads for the 2020 season which you can follow on Sky Sports.