Jess Thirlby inspired by England playing group at Vitality Roses' first camp
"It's important for me to step back and observe the group as they will be doing to me, it works both ways. I can't fault their efforts so far and it bodes well"
By Emma Thurston
Last Updated: 10/09/19 3:33pm
New England head coach Jess Thirlby speaks exclusively to Sky Sports from her first training camp as Vitality Roses head coach and discusses their immediate steps forwards and why she is so inspired by the group around her.
For all of the sides that took to the court at July's Netball World Cup, the final day marked the end of a four-year cycle and for the Roses it marked the end of the Tracey Neville era.
Shortly afterwards Thirlby was announced as Neville's successor, and now the former international player's tenure has commenced with a maiden camp that is taking place on the border of the Yorkshire Dales and the Lake District.
The camp marks the first time that, in Thirlby's words, England's "new cohort" and "next generation" of players are coming together, and as a group they are taking the first steps on a new and exciting journey.
Sky Sports caught up with the Roses' head coach after a day-and-a-half in camp and she started by being incredibly open and honest about her own emotions, as she embarks on the biggest journey of her coaching career.
"It's been great to get going to be honest. I feel almost at home once we're in camp and in this environment, but obviously it's all still very new as well," Thirlby told Sky Sports.
"It's quite a conflict. I feel very much at home in my coaching skin but obviously I am really appreciating the freshness of it and the opportunity to work with this group.
"I appreciate that we're in year one of this cycle but, for me, it's like every moment is really special. I've just enjoyed the first 36 hours of being in camp and seeing the characters coming together. They've had a real energy about them which has been really good to see."
The group of players that are in camp contains a dichotomy of individuals, from those that were present in Liverpool to those that are experiencing the programme for the first time. Regardless of players' previous experience levels, Thirlby is pleased with what she is seeing.
"We've obviously got the likes of Nat Panagarry and Fran Williams here who have just finished that World Cup journey and to have them in camp, with players that have been on the fringes, is really valuable. They're as energised as any of the other players here too," said the head coach.
"There's a really good atmosphere with a bit of everything. It's important for me to step back and observe the group as they will be doing to me, it works both ways. I can't fault their efforts so far and it bodes well."
I’m very mindful that as a group, we have to earn that right to not only maintain the success that the current Roses group have created but also build on it. It’s not going to be easy. I’m under no illusion as to the task and the big task that lies ahead but I’m just really grateful for the opportunities that England Netball have put in place for every year of this four-year cycle.
Jess Thirlby reflecting on the Roses' drive forwards
Thirlby herself represented England from 1991 to 2006 and took to court at a home Commonwealth Games in Manchester in 2002. The new head coach shared just how energised she is by the current players' mindsets, and how those thoughts have evolved since her time.
"I think [what I took away] from most of my conversations with players, the experienced ones and the inexperienced ones, is this drive to want to achieve more.
"I was fortunate enough to play for England many, many years ago. I was part of a generation where England were never expected to beat the top nations and I think walking into this environment and the landscape now [it's different].
"We did some tasks with a company and the feedback from some of the staff was that three years ago you wouldn't have been in the room with people talking and aspiring to aim for those gold medals, podium finishes and taking on the best in the world. There's a belief in the group now."
For this group there is a tour to Australia and New Zealand on the horizon, which is taking place from September 23 to October 13, and that will give Thirlby an instant chance to measure where this set of players is at.
"We're staying true to what the purpose of this tour was designed to be which is to make sure that those that have been on the fringes, that maybe just missed out on that World Cup selection, are given an opportunity to quickly to bounce back in and see what they can do," she said.
"This isn't a tour where we should be dismissing it as not helpful. We're going to be playing and matching up against players that we may well meet in Birmingham in three years' time.
"It's a great measure I think, for both me as a coach and for the players, to pit themselves against their equivalent in those two nations.
"This first one, may look and feel differently. Beyond that the South Africa series and in the January series you may well see some familiar faces returning back into the full-time programme and very much wanting to get selected and to get stuck back in.
"It will also be exciting to integrate them back and it bodes well for the next five months.
"The public will see a number of players putting on that red and white dress and they should be very proud of the players that they're going to see. They're very, very talented and I believe that we've got a great group coming through. "
Read more from the Vitality Roses' new head coach as the tour to Australia and New Zealand approaches with the head coach sharing further insights from camp. Plus, live netball is back on your screens in October with the Fast5 All Stars Championship.