Ama Agbeze on the Vitality Roses' Netball World Cup expectations and Tamsin Greenway looks beyond July

"I think for netball in England, netball needs us to get a gold medal too so there's lots of pressure but hopefully we'll just take it in our stride."


Last Updated: 13/01/19 10:28am

Ama Agbeze is not shying away from the magnitude of 2019 for the Vitality Roses
Ama Agbeze is not shying away from the magnitude of 2019 for the Vitality Roses

The Vitality Roses' journey towards a home Netball World Cup recommences on Sunday with the start of the Netball Quad Series and Ama Agbeze has told Sky Sports about the "need" for gold this summer.

In July, England's women have the chance to create history. They have the chance to supersede the memories of consecutive third-place World Cup finishes with ultimate achievement on home turf.

So as an athlete, when you're confronted with such a challenge, what do you do? Shy away from talking about it publicly and deflect from answering questions on it? Or, confront the topic head on? Well, if you're Agbeze, then you do the latter and you spell it out loud and clear.

"It's a long way [off] and there's a lot of work to do. It's not going to be easy, there's a target on our back and I feel like there's expectation of English society now that we actually do something and perform."

"“I think for netball in England, netball needs us to get a gold medal too so there’s lots of pressure but hopefully we’ll just take it in our stride, forget about the pressure, have fun and get ourselves on the podium.”"

Ama Agbeze

For any team, delivering on the world stage is a tough ask but delivering on a home world stage takes that to a whole new level. Just ask the Aussie Diamonds who hosted the last Netball World Cup, or the England rugby union side that could not find the right notes in 2015.

On Friday July 12, the most pressured and intense period of the Vitality Roses' lives will commence, but first there's the matter of the Netball Quad Series to handle, live on Sky Sports. It's a series that they'll have to handle without regular team captain Agbeze as she continues to recover from a knee injury.

Roses fans will have been pleased to see Agbeze's name in the England A squad announced shortly after - they'll play three behind-closed-doors matches - and the fact she's being "monitored on a daily basis" is potentially a sign that she's close to a return.

Elsewhere in Tracey Neville's squad, Jo Harten and Geva Mentor return for England as the team look to continue their World Cup preparations with victories.

Tracey Neville's Roses are aiming to win a Netball Quad Series for the first time

Neville's 12-player unit for their forthcoming matches is as settled as injuries will allow. Sky Sports expert Tamsin Greenway expected that to be the case, but points out that there's a delicate balance to be met moving forwards.

"It's a bit of a risky game now because if you wanted to see the youngsters you probably needed to see them two years ago and the thing is we're six months out," Greenway told Sky Sports.

"What I'd like to see now is, you've got to take your best squad… you have to. If an opportunity comes up, like there's an injury and there's a space, then youngsters have to be in there. So, you've got to keep them in the mix."

Fran Williams and Razia Quashie are two of the Roses' younger squad members preparing for the Quad Series

Of course, July 12-21 is the ultimate focal point that everything is driving towards, however, Greenway also knows that life beyond the tournament needs to be considered at this point in time too.

"What you don't want is a big fall out after World Cup and none of these [younger] players being even on the radar," said Greenway.

"So I think that they've got to be in there, training with them, playing at Superleague and getting as much exposure and experience as possible because after the World Cup, netball will continue regardless of the result.

"There's definitely an opportunity for maybe one, one youngster to hit that squad of 12. But, I'd like to see the longer-term plan as well so that once the World Cup is over these guys have played it out this year, have trained with them, have had a great season in Superleague and there's a contingency post World Cup."

Jade Clarke is the Roses' most-capped player of all time - her next appearance will be her 160th

There are very established players in Neville's first-choice squad - with the likes of Mentor, Agbeze and Jade Clarke - and looking at it, it has much the same shape and feel to Sir Clive Woodward's England squad back in 2003 when they won Rugby World Cup 2003.

The dynamic of that world-beating team wasn't able to be replicated after their triumph and the dynamic of this current Roses squad is unlikely to continue wholly beyond July.

The experience that the Roses' squad possesses, and the world class players within it, is what creates their chance of glory. But, it also has an impact underneath as Greenway notes.

"The last thing that you want is to have this massive high [if England did win] and this great following and the next group come through and it be nowhere near it needs to be.

"I think that we've had some warning signs, when an 'England A' squad went to Jamaica and that didn't pan out. We have to be realistic about that and for those of us that are involved in this sport for the long run that is an important issue," highlighted Greenway.

"You have to do it as a club coach and as a national coach as well - you've got to make sure that there's the talent bubbling through underneath as well as winning when it matters. That's not an easy ask at all.

"For me, if we get all of this momentum going into the World Cup. The last thing that we want to do is to bomb it out, post it.

"We've all got a job play in that to make sure that we're producing players, helping to push those players forward and that there's a back-up plan."

Watch every game of the Netball Quad Series which starts on Sunday, coverage is live on Sky Sports Mix and Arena from 3.15pm. Sky Sports will also show every game live of the 2019 Vitality Netball World Cup, July 12-21.