Interviews, comment & analysis
England start the defence of their title on July 29 at Birmingham’s NEC Arena; Helen Housby, Jade Clarke and Geva Mentor among seven players selected who were victorious in 2018; Eleanor Cardwell, Sophie Drakeford-Lewis, Layla Guscoth and Laura Malcolm set for Commonwealth Games debuts
Last Updated: 20/06/22 2:41pm
Team England are the defending champions at this summer’s Commonwealth Games netball competition, get to know the athletes head coach Jess Thirlby has selected for their title defence.
On the Gold Coast in 2018, England’s Vitality Roses won a first major Commonwealth Games gold medal after a thrilling final against Australia.
Helen Housby had nerves of steel to score the match-winning goal in the final seconds and now the team have the chance to defend their title on a home court in Birmingham.
The netball competition starts on July 29, with Team England playing in the first match against Trinidad & Tobago, before four further group matches. Following the group stages, the competition moves directly into the semi-finals and then final.
World champions New Zealand are in England’s group, while the No 1 ranked team in the world, Australia, sit in the other group.
Team England – Commonwealth Games fixtures
|Friday, July 29||England vs Trinidad & Tobago|
|Saturday, July 30||England vs Malawi|
|Monday, August 1||England vs Northern Ireland|
|Tuesday, August 2||England vs Uganda|
|Thursday, August 4||New Zealand vs England|
|Saturday, August 6||Semi-final|
|Sunday, August 7||Final|
Shooter Eleanor Cardwell is one of four athletes who will be playing at their first Commonwealth Games.
The 27-year-old has been a member of England’s full-time programme since its inception in 2016 and has made 39 appearances for her country. She originally started life as a defender before switching into the shooting circle and has won four Vitality Netball Superleague titles with Manchester Thunder.
Cardwell’s accuracy from anywhere inside the circle is second to none – she worked at a 90.66 per cent accuracy during the 2022 Superleague season and scored 641 goals.
During the competition in Birmingham, watch out for Cardwell’s exceptional handling skills and one-handed takes, something her team-mates refer to as using ‘the claw’.
Jade Clarke is England’s most-capped international and has already appeared at four Commonwealth Games and five Netball World Cups during her career.
The 38-year-old is as fit as they come and continues to set the standard in England’s mid-court. She won her 150th cap during the Roses’ Commonwealth Games triumph on the Gold Coast and will be adding to her 185 caps in Birmingham.
As well as being an exceptional athlete, Clarke is a phenomenal leader who lets her netball do the talking.
Like the recently retired Serena Guthrie did in an England dress, Clarke delivers game-changing moments when England needs them most. She has shown on countless occasions that she can single-handedly alter the course of a match, and every nation in world netball will be wary of her.
Team England Netball squad
|Eleanor Cardwell||Jade Clarke||Beth Cobden|
|Sophie Drakeford-Lewis||Stacey Francis-Bayman||Layla Guscoth|
|Jo Harten (vice-captain)||Helen Housby||Laura Malcolm|
|Geva Mentor||Nat Metcalf (captain)||Eboni Usoro-Brown|
Beth Cobden has displayed exceptional resilience during her career, having returned from no less than three ACL injuries.
During the 2022 Superleague season, the mid-courter highlighted that her hard work on and off court has brought her back to her very best. Cobden’s presence in any defensive unit allows it to excel.
Cobden is a world-leading wing defence; she reads the game quicker than most, uses her rangy arms to tip and intercept balls left right and centre and never gives her wing attack a moment to settle.
The Loughborough Lightning athlete also has the ability to switch into the centre position and energises those around her with her attitude and personality on and off court.
The Team Bath Netball athlete is someone who has come through England’s ranks during Jess Thirlby’s reign as head coach. She watched the 2018 Commonwealth Games competition at university and is excited to take to the court at this one.
Drakeford-Lewis plays most of her club netball as a goal attack, but has the attacking nous to move one position out and play at wing attack too.
She’s extremely quick across the court and, despite her more diminutive physique in comparison to some, Drakeford-Lewis always holds her own.
Commonwealth Games – July 29 to August 7, NEC Arena
|Group A||Group B|
|Wales||Trinidad & Tobago|
Stacey Francis-Bayman made her debut for England in 2010, having previously represented England at U17, U19 and U21 level.
The 78-cap international has already won a bronze medal at the Commonwealth Games in 2010 and secured bronze medals at two Netball World Cups.
After joining West Coast Fever in 2017, she is one of a number of England players who ply their trade in Australia, but is proud to be preparing to take to court in her home city.
Francis-Bayman is relentless in her work. She covers all three defensive positions and knows what title-winning netball is about, having won five Superleague titles during a decade at Team Bath.
Layla Guscoth returned from Australia for the 2022 season and finished it having been named as Superleague’s Player of the Season.
This Commonwealth Games will be Guscoth’s first after she took time away from international netball to focus on her junior doctor training. The international actually witnessed England’s triumph in 2018 while coming to the end of a night shift in A&E.
Despite having just 36 international caps, Guscoth plays like a 100-cap international.
Her time in Australia means she’s played against the world’s best on a weekly basis and she’s in the form of her life right now. Guscoth is an exceptional athlete and complements both Eboni Usoro-Brown and Geva Mentor.
Jo Harten is another who has a wealth of Commonwealth Games and Netball World Cup experience. She has represented England at four Netball World Cups and three Commonwealth Games already.
Harten and fellow shooter Helen Housby, known as ‘H2’ to some, both scored match-winning goals during England’s 2018 success on the Gold Coast. Harten’s came against Jamaica in the semi-final, before Housby repeated the feat in the final versus Australia.
Harten is a winner and a true competitor. She always takes care of her own performance and then raises the level of everyone around her. The 33-year-old, like her team-mate Housby, has nerves of steel and will be at the heart of England’s work in Birmingham.
Helen Housby is a netballer who always nails championship-winning goals, the most well-known being that final goal of the Commonwealth Games in 2018.
Housby makes something that’s extremely difficult, look effortless and does it at the end of matches when she’s given her all and set the standard for those around her.
She made her England debut in 2015 and has been a mainstay of the squad since. When Housby and Harten are fired up, their shooting partnership is a world-leading one and a home Games should push them both to great heights.
Laura Malcolm is another of Thirlby’s athletes who will be making her Commonwealth Games debut this summer.
The mid-courter enjoyed an exceptional season for Manchester Thunder this year and led the title-winners by example during their unbeaten run. She also highlighted true versatility by playing across four different positions.
Malcolm never takes a backwards step. Her energy on court is matched by her energy off it, and when given court time she’ll look to make her mark in Birmingham
Geva Mentor made her England debut back in 2000 at the age of 16 and since, has amassed 153 caps. Mentor plays her netball in Australia and has really turned it on for Collingwood Magpies this season.
The 37-year-old has won medals at three Commonwealth Games and three Netball World Cups.
If opposing shooters and attacking units want to get one over Mentor, then they’re going to have to come up with something brand new because she knows every trick in the book.
Nat Metcalf (nee Haythornthwaite) returned to England for the 2022 season and elevated Manchester Thunder’s output to a new level.
She’s another athlete who has won titles at both international and domestic level in England and Australia, and seemingly never has a bad game.
Metcalf can switch from wing attack to goal attack in an instant, but thrives in that wing attack role with her vision and drive.
When given England’s captaincy previously, she changed games on her own and lifted every athlete around her.
Eboni Usoro-Brown thought that the 2019 Netball World Cup in England might be her last major competition at international level. Since, she’s returned from having her first child and spent the 2022 season playing for Queensland Firebirds in Australia.
Alongside Francis-Bayman and Mentor, Usoro-Brown has tested herself week in and week out against the world’s best attacking units and has the type of experience Thirlby needs for a home Commonwealth Games.
Usoro-Brown has already won medals a two Commonwealth Games and three Netball World Cups, so she knows exactly what’s coming this summer.