Serena Guthrie reflects on Netball World Cup and leading England in Liverpool
"It was probably the most intense netball experience that I've had, but in a really positive way"
By Martha Watson and Emma Thurston
Last Updated: 03/09/19 7:04am
Serena Guthrie opens up about how she managed the pressure of captaining the Vitality Roses on home soil and shares her Netball World Cup reflections with Sky Sports.
From July 12 to 21, the Netball World Cup enraptured us all and set a new benchmark for the sport's pinnacle tournament, a benchmark that South Africa 2023 will endeavour to reach and eclipse.
The Vitality Roses' build-up into this summer's World Cup was a much-talked about one. The competition was eagerly anticipated and the pressure on the shoulders of the whole squad was considerable after their Commonwealth Games triumph and Quad Series performances.
Guthrie was given the task of leading England's 12-player squad and, now over six weeks on from the competition's conclusion, the mid-court player is still taking stock of the 10 days.
"It still feels like a bit of a surreal experience, the World Cup, because of how incredible it was," reflected Guthrie about July's tournament in Liverpool.
"To be able to stand up on a podium at the end of what was such an intense tournament for us [was incredible], especially after losing Layla (Guscoth) and pretty much going for 75 per cent of the tournament with 11 players, that took a big toll on us. The way that the group stuck together and got through that was amazing.
"Then you've got the crowds which were just insane, we felt like rock stars for two weeks which was awesome! It was an amazing experience and it's still sinking in a lot."
Guthrie was announced as captain by then-head coach Tracey Neville on May 23. At the time, Neville praised the way in which the mid-court player led the Roses by example.
"When she entered our programme in July she brought a new level. She brought a role that we didn't have, she brought a leadership," commented Neville on squad-announcement day.
"She trained, off and on the court, and she led with her performance. She takes our programme forwards, she speaks out and sweats world class.
"She was flabbergasted [when I told her she was captain] and I think that the phone call to her was quite emotional. I got quite teary about it because it probably wasn't something that she was expecting.
"With Serena, she probably underestimates herself more than anybody else. In our eyes she's a world-class player. She's a beautiful person and so valuable as a team member."
The Netball World Cup itself saw the home side handle considerable hardship, alongside Layla Guscoth's tournament-ending injury, the devastation of a 47-45 semi-final loss to New Zealand cut deep.
Prior to the tournament the Roses had been clear about their goal - being in the World Cup final in order to have a chance of taking glory - and failing to do that hurt them immensely.
However, Guthrie as captain and the side as a whole, showed tremendous fortitude and mental resilience to come back and dominate South Africa on the final day to take home bronze.
"It was probably the most intense netball experience that I've had, but in a really positive way," Guthrie said.
"I asked myself quite a few questions going into the tournament in terms of how I was going to try and manage everything and what my approach was going to be. It's fair to say that I wanted to try and stay as true to Serena as I could be and just have a lot of fun along the way.
"It was making sure that I was really comfortable in who I was as a person and that definitely helped me lead through such an intense experience. It was a great; it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience as well."
The 2019 Netball World Cup, the 15th edition of the tournament, was hailed as an incredible showcase for the sport and one that continued to put netball on the map, both in England and around the world.
Nations like Zimbabwe enraptured us with their play on court and the support they received from their ardent fans in the stands.
The eventual champions New Zealand astounded with their bounce back after last year's Commonwealth Games hurt and, overall, Guthrie believes the 10 days has further enhanced the sport's foundations for the future.
"I think that we needed a competition like that to show the UK and England just what netball is about," she said.
"It wasn't just about England Netball that tournament, it was about showcasing netball and the best athletes in the world, coming together and playing their style of netball to the best of their ability.
"I think that everyone did that and it felt like a huge celebration of sport and of women in sport as well.
"We have been moving slowly and gradually improving in terms of the sport over the past few years but I think that the World Cup will help accelerate the development of netball and hopefully the development of the Superleague as well.
"The leagues now need to get better so that we can have more girls training and hopefully experiencing what we did at the World Cup."
For Guthrie the time since the World Cup has been action-packed. She has settled back at home and has flown head first into a wealth of different things when it comes to her personal life.
"It's been fun. To come back from such an amazing experience at the World Cup to Bob [Guthrie's fiance] opening up his cafe and also trying to renovate a house from top to bottom, has been pretty interesting!
"But I don't really know life any other way than at a thousand miles an hour, so it didn't really feel too far from home! It's been a really fun summer."
As summer starts to turn into autumn, netball will return to Sky Sports with the British Fast5 All Stars Championship and we will continue to hear from many players regarding their own routes forward and what that may entail.
For now, the memories of the World Cup remain firmly in our minds and Guthrie will continue to let such a special tournament sink in.
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 shape their squads for the 2020 season, which you can follow on Sky Sports.