Sara Bayman says England Roses need time as they start new era
All three Tests will be live on Sky Sports and streamed on the Sky Sports YouTube channel, with the first on Friday at 4.30pm
By Emma Thurston
Last Updated: 29/11/19 12:15pm
Sara Bayman explains the nuances that arise at the start of a new four-year international cycle and shares how the development process will continue over the coming months and years as England's Roses look to build again.
When the first whistle blows in Cape Town on Friday afternoon, it is the bang of a starting gun on England Roses' new race - a race that will see them end up in Birmingham for the Commonwealth Games in 2022 and then return to Cape Town for the Netball World Cup a year later.
With netball now enjoying a greater following and more exposure than ever before, this new era will happen inside a spotlight. These early 'development' years will be seen and scrutinised by all, which was not always the case previously.
So, what should we expect? What opportunities do these early years present and what challenges come with them too? Former England international, and now Loughborough Lightning director of netball, Bayman lifts the lid on both.
What’s really exciting is that you get the young players being given an opportunity on the international stage, the players that we don’t see so much. It’s a massive opportunity for these younger players and one that they really have to step up to. It is the next level up for them.
"I think that what you'll see is Jess Thirlby putting out lots of different combinations and really using this next year or so to work out who has got it at this level and who can compete with the top nations," Bayman told Sky Sports.
"You'd expect results to be less important for all nations in world netball over the next 12 months because people will go through a bit of a rebuilding phase. And, it's more about finding out who the players are that are going to get to the Commonwealth Games [in 2022] and perform there."
One of the things that Thirlby made clear, as soon as she arrived in her new role as England's head coach, was that an immediate focus would be to expose a greater pool of players to Test netball early on.
The head coach's selection for this Test series highlights that, with half of the squad (including training partners) having eight caps or fewer.
England's 14-player squad for South Africa Series
|George Fisher||Natalie Panagarry|
|Eleanor Cardwell||Stacey Francis|
|Kadeen Corbin||Kate Shimmin|
|Sophie Drakeford-Lewis||Fran Williams|
|Natalie Haythornthwaite (C)||Razia Quashie|
|Jade Clarke||Gabriella Marshall|
|Laura Malcolm (VC)||Summer Artman|
Of course, Bayman is eager to see those players in action but has highlighted the vital importance of the more established squad members too.
"When I first made the England squad in 2007, I had a lot of experienced players who looked after me and who mentored me to an extent because it's completely different playing international netball to club netball," Bayman noted.
"Amanda Newton was my first captain and she did such a good job of really trying to help players, educating them and passing on knowledge.
"It wasn't ever a situation [for her] where it was, 'I'm going to play really well and I'm not going to let anyone take my place', instead her thoughts were that she wanted everyone to be the best that they could be."
"As an English player you want England to always do well," she added.
"So, you look at someone like Jade Clarke and she will spend time with the younger players discussing things and what should happen in different scenarios.
"I think it's the way that it should be - information and knowledge should be passed on from player to player. It's not just Jess' (Thirlby) job to impart what she knows, it's everyone's job to make sure that England continues to go in the right direction."
Stepping onto court in Cape Town and after the shrill of the first whistle, just how will England's less-experienced Roses feel? How will it differ to a Superleague stage or to taking to court for their behind-closed-doors Tests Down Under?
"The media attention associated with international netball, the crowds, are all part of it and with that comes the pressure," the former England international said.
"Then when you start playing it feels like the fastest game that you've ever played, and that feeling happens continuously for 60 minutes.
"Only after you've played a few Tests do you start to understand what to expect and recognise that you can cope with it. Then, it becomes more and more comfortable
"You can't just throw someone into a major championship and expect them to cope with it. It's an experience and a learning process that they need to go through in order to be ready for when those opportunities come."
England have a very full-on international schedule which is really brave considering the amount of change that they’re going through. People need to understand that it’s likely to be a little bit inconsistent for a while before Jess fully works out what she wants from the team and who she wants in it.
These three Tests against South Africa will renew a rivalry that has developed into a fascinating one and after, both sides will meet again at the turn of the year in the Vitality Nations Cup.
There New Zealand and Jamaica will enter the fray and Bayman highlights that on home soil, the Roses' new head coach may be faced with some tough calls...
"It's going to be an interesting dilemma in terms of the Nations Cup in January because you then meet New Zealand and different teams and actually, where will she put her focus?
"Is it purely on winning or have you still got try and do the best for these players that you're trying to develop?
You never know, someone like Helen Housby might come back in January and make herself available... are you not going to pick Housby because you want to keep these players getting exposure? Or are you going to feed someone out?
"Jess (Thirlby) definitely does need to give these players time and I think that the netball public need to give this squad some time as well. You can't just say, if we have one or two bad results, they should scrap everyone and get in everyone who was at the World Cup because that's not as easy as it sounds.
"You've got to give players time to make the mistakes, learn from them and really get the speed of international netball and then you can start working out who is going to be great and who might not be.
Test Series Fixtures - All will be streamed on YouTube too
|November 29||South Africa vs England||4.30pm on Sky Sports Mix, Arena & Main Event|
|November 30||South Africa vs England||12.30pm on Sky Sports Mix & Arena|
|December 1||South Africa vs England||10:30am on Sky Sports Mix|
"That's what Jess has to do in this two-year period, she has to work out who is going to be at the very top of international netball and who's not. The only way to do that is to play them."
All of these areas - new players, the balance of experienced players and selection decisions - will not just to pertinent to England. Instead, every one of the major netballing nations will be going through the same deciphering and building process.
The cyclical nature of international sport is just one of its fascinating elements. Right now, England are about to move into a new era and we'll all have a chance to follow every moment of it in much greater detail than ever before.
Sky Sports is your home of netball and live action returns with this three-Test tour to South Africa. The first Test from the Velodrome in Cape Town will be shown on November 29 at 5.00pm and will be streamed on YouTube.