Jo Harten and Geva Mentor take six-month breaks from England Netball
"You can't maintain the pressure and that level of professionalism year after year, cycle after cycle. I've been doing it for 12 years now so there had to be a little bit of give" - Jo Harten
By Emma Thurston
Last Updated: 07/11/19 1:12pm
Jo Harten and Geva Mentor have both announced that they will be taking six-month breaks away from England's Vitality Roses programme.
Harten, who celebrated her 100th appearance for the international side in Liverpool, has been at the top of the world game for 12 years, while Mentor was first selected for England back in 2000 and made her debut the following year.
As both players' immediate futures are announced, Harten spoke exclusively to Sky Sports about her reasons behind stepping back from the international arena - for now.
During some open and honest conversations with Jess Thirlby, Harten shared her decision in the weeks that followed the World Cup and as a result, consciously took a step away from all aspects of the Roses' recent tour to the Southern Hemisphere.
"I'm trying to stay out of it because part of having a little break from the international game for probably this six-month period is about mentally detaching yourself from the England programme," Harten shared exclusively with Sky Sports.
"We have so many WhatsApp groups and you've got so much information when you're in that system and in that programme, that it's really hard to keep up with that all-year around.
"So, I've tried to take a little step back from the netball information and just try and be 'normal Jo' for a few weeks and a few months."
I'm taking this break mentally and physically for six months from the international game and then once I go back out to GIANTS, I'll assess the year ahead in 2020 and see what happens.
Jo Harten, about her conversions with Jess Thirlby
Harten made her international debut back in 2007 and ever since, the very top of the world game has been her home. Like fellow professionals, both in netball and in other sports, she feels that a sabbatical is now required.
"You can't maintain the pressure and that level of professionalism year after year, cycle after cycle," the shooter noted.
"I've been doing it for 12 years now so there had to be a little bit of give and it's probably going to be good for my body as well. A little less training and see what happens in 2020..."
With both Harten and Serena Guthrie taking international breaks (a full break for a year for Guthrie) and the decisions of others yet to be known, the stage is set for a different group of individuals to step up over the coming weeks and months. The shooter believes that this will be positive for the international programme as a whole.
"We [Serena and I] were very fortunate that when we were 21 and 22-years-old, we got opportunities as starting players," said Harten.
"We were obviously talented but we had to go through that process of getting smashed by Australia and New Zealand, touring the world and learning how to be an England athlete.
"I think that's what's happening now, so I think that it's great when players do take a little step back from the game and youngsters take the opportunity that they've worked for and they've earned.
"But, they have to learn how hard it is as well and I'm sure the group that toured out to Australia and New Zealand will have experienced some hard times as well."
Looking forward, there's a whole heap of talent in that group. So if they can develop amongst themselves and then a few of us come back in a year or two, it will be something really special again.
Jo Harten on England's Vitality Roses
With Harten's starring role for Loughborough Lightning at the British Fast5 All-Stars Championships, fans will have hoped that she might consider returning to British soils. However, that won't be the case right now.
"I'm signed with the GIANTS until 2021 and realistically I see my playing future in Australia," the shooter shared.
"I love the set-up at the GIANTS and I love playing in the Suncorp. I have built a life for myself Down Under as well - I've got the accent to go with it too!
"I do see Sydney as home, that's where I'm based for most of the year and I can't see myself coming back to Superleague any time soon but I'll never say never."
Harten was part of a wave of players that made decision to move across the world.
Mentor, Helen Housby, Guthrie, and others that made the move, all testify that their experiences have made them the players that they are today, and Harten agrees.
"When I went over eight years ago, there were seven or eight of us that had come from England to go and play Down Under and that's ultimately helped us in the long run. It's helped us up our skill levels, the intensity when we train, and things like that.
"I'm a massive advocate for English shooters to play Down Under because it is a different type of pressure - shooting under that intensity every week," added Harten.
"The professionalism requires you to be on your game every single week. Yes you do have the physical intensity of Australian defenders which is very hard to replicate, but also the pressure of shooting in front of 12,000 people week in and week out.
"Getting to grip with that, how you can perform on that stage every week bodes well when you're playing internationally in front of those crowds.
"If you put on an England dress and you go to the Copper Box or Wembley, you'll be playing in front of thousands and thousands of people and it takes a lot to have consistent performances. I think playing in Australia has helped with that."
So the question is, should a further wave of English players follow? For Harten, it depends on the individual and it's a slight Catch-22 situation.
"It's one of those ones where you want players to experience that but you also want the English game to grow as much as possible," the shooter reflected.
"There isn't a magic formula, you don't know if it's best for people to stay in England.
"It's a tough one because you want Superleague to keep with the momentum that it's had and you want it to be semi-pro and eventually professional but at the same time, you are playing some of the best netball in the world when you play in Australia."
Sky Sports is your home of netball and live action returns with the Vitality Roses' three-Test tour to South Africa. The first Test from the Velodrome in Cape Town will be shown live on November 29 at 5.00pm.