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Tracey Neville keen to develop as a coach and person upon return to netball at Manchester Thunder

The former England Vitality Roses head coach has re-joined the Vitality Netball Superleague franchise in a dual role as a specialist coach and performance operations director. It marks first steps back into netball after maternity leave.

Tracey Neville is returning to Manchester Thunder in a new capacity.
Image: Tracey Neville is excited to be back with Manchester Thunder and also remains ambitious to coach internationally again

Tracey Neville is looking forward to developing as a coach and a person as she returns to netball with Manchester Thunder. The former England head coach also told Sky Sports News that she remains ambitious to coach internationally again in the future.

On Friday, the formal announcement that England's former head coach would be returning to the sport she loves was received joyfully by all involved in netball.

During her maternity leave, Neville didn't miss a beat when it came to domestic or international netball, and now she's taking on a new dual role at Thunder as their performance operations director and specialist coach.

"What's exciting about Manchester Thunder is that it's where my history has been; it's where I've played and coached," she told Sky Sports News' Gail Davis.

"I've had some great times with Thunder and when you think about starting your journey back, this is an exciting place to be."

As Neville says, her relationship with Thunder runs deep having played for the franchise and previously been their head coach from 2011 to 2015. During that time, she helped them secure two Superleague titles and had Karen Greig by her side as assistant.

This time around, she'll be working under head coach Greig's charge, and not being the primary leader is something Neville is keen to learn about.

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"What was really key, when I spoke to Karen Greig, is that she's really excited to challenge me in different ways because she knows what sort of person I am," Neville said about the person she has known since they played county netball together in the U14s and U16s for Greater Manchester.

Tracey Neville and Karen Greig
Image: Tracey Neville and Karen Greig know each other's styles of working extremely well

"During my England career they put some great mentors around me and they said that being a 'No 2' is probably not in my character and my leadership DNA.

"However, I do think that it's actually something that I need to learn to do. I need to learn how to support, I've always been put into a top role and I think that it's good for me to look at how I can facilitate coaches rather than lead coaches.

"It's actually quite nice, a breath of fresh air," she added with a small smile.

"The Roses job was an intense period where everything was dependent on me. I think that as my first coaching role back in the sport, it's nice to be led, to let someone else take that responsibility on, and for me to enjoy coaching again."

When Neville announced that she was stepping down from the role of England head coach, after leading them to such great success, she was open about her reasons why. She wanted to focus on her personal life and ambition to start a family.

After having challenges in doing so previously and talking about the despair of going through miscarriages, the arrival of baby Nev last March was wonderful for Neville, her partner Michael and every member of their families.

"Being a mother is something that you cannot take for granted," she said. "However, I also wake up every day wanting to coach netball, wanting to be in a high-class environment and push a sport that has been an integral part of my life for so long.

"It's a piece of the jigsaw that during maternity was missing. I wanted to put that piece back into the picture again. I'm fortunate that I can do that on my doorstep [with Thunder] at the moment.

"There were other jobs that I looked at," she added, openly. "There are some future challenges that I want to do.

"I want to out coach in Australia and New Zealand, maybe get some of that under my coaching belt. I'd like to coach internationally at some point in my career going forward.

"Right now, taking on Manchester Thunder is not going to be easy. They're a team that expect to win and perform.

"I'm now working in the defensive end, which is basically something new to me. That forms its own challenges in itself. I'm excited to develop as a coach and a person."

The second part to Neville's dual role is being a member of Manchester Thunder's board as their performance operations director. This is where she'll be looking to use her knowledge to shape things more strategically at the franchise.

"This is something I've never done before [at a franchise level], but I'll be looking to support Thunder in their direction and implementing new performance strategies. That was something that I really enjoyed doing when I was working with England Netball.

"So, hopefully, I can bring some of that experience back to Thunder and see how some of that knowledge can apply at club level, to make the Superleague franchise one of the best in the world and in the UK."

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