Commonwealth Games: Netball's bid to use its golden moment as a platform

Leeds Rhinos netball chief Anna Carter believes England's momentous Commonwealth Games gold medal can have a huge impact on the sport in this country.

England's Helen Housby battles for the ball with Australia's April Brandley in the Women's Netball gold medal match (Picture: Martin Rickett/PA Wire)

Helen Housby’s last-gasp winner helped England conquer impossible odds to defeat favourites Australia 52-51 on the Gold Coast.

Many have viewed the victory as England’s greatest in the sport with Tracey Neville’s side receiving plaudits across the board.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Carter was keen to praise the side, and has spoken about the potential success the domestic game can reap due to England’s achievement.

Carter has been involved in netball for many years, especially in Yorkshire, previously coaching the now extinct Yorkshire Jets and currently heading operations at Leeds Rhinos.

She is hopeful that the jubilation around England’s triumph can help Yorkshire get a side back in Superleague, the sport’s premier domestic competition, something the region has not had since the Jets lost their franchise in September 2016.

“We want to use the exposure from the Commonwealth Games to bring a Super League team back here to Yorkshire,” said Carter, who runs the Leeds Rhinos Netball Academy.

“We’re especially interested going forward to bid for a Super League side, the amount of support around that has been really positive by people in Yorkshire, and here at Leeds Rhinos. The support has been really positive so hopefully we should put a good case forward for England Netball to consider.”

England's Helen Housby shoots over Australia's Courtney Bruce during the Women's netball gold match, at the Coomera Indoor Sports Centre during day eleven of the 2018 Commonwealth Games in the Gold Coast, Australia. (Picture: Martin Rickett/PA Wire)

Funding for the sport was also high on the agenda for Carter. England Netball received a £16.9m kitty from Sport England to last for the 2017-21 cycle.

While appearing sizeable, the award is actually a 34 per cent reduction from their previous grant, leading to concerns that unless an increase in external funding from sponsorship was forthcoming, money was going to be increasingly tight for England Netball.

“We’ve always looked at ways of improving our game in England, especially our domestic competition, but I think the main thing for us is to look at funding for our sport,” continued Carter.

“We are obviously funded through Sport England and that can sometimes be difficult to build a future on, because it is money that can be taken away from you at any point so I think for us it’s important we make sure we use the media exposure we’re getting through the England team’s achievement to get sponsorship and get more people involved in the sport.

England's Helen Housby shoots over Australia's Courtney Bruce during the Women's netball gold match, at the Coomera Indoor Sports Centre during day eleven of the 2018 Commonwealth Games in the Gold Coast, Australia. (Picture: Martin Rickett/PA Wire)

“It’s unbelievable, the amount of response we’re getting on social media has been amazing.

“The fact that they have (Australia) a full-time professional league is something that we want to emulate over here.”

UK Sport chief executive Liz Nicholl shared the sentiments of Carter, pointing towards how an increase in participation and interest in the sport can help secure the future of netball in England.

UK Sport do not fund England Netball but Nicholl is still hopeful an increase in financial support can help inspire a new generation.

“It’s a sport that’s been growing and doing incredibly well but this is just a huge moment. This is a massive showcase to inspire young women to get involved in the sport.

“UK Sport funds UK GB level athletes, Olympic and Paralympic focus – netball is not an Olympic sport, it’s an England sport and if we put money into England netball we’d have to fund Scottish netball and Welsh netball and Northern Ireland netball as well. The National Lottery funding is the fuel that supports the whole of the UK sporting system.

“The home nations received that investment and invested in increasing participation and developing talent, and our unique role is (to ensure) that delivers at Olympic and Paralympic level.”

England’s surprise Commonwealth success had a hint of Yorkshire about it. Wing-attack Natalie Haythornthwaite was born in Keighley and spent six years studying and playing netball in Leeds, while head coach Neville is a former colleague of Carter’s.

“I worked with Tracey Neville when she worked at Leeds Beckett University and played with her back in the day, and I coached Natalie Haythornewaite from about seven years of age,” added Carter.

“I have complete respect for the amount of hard work that went into that gold medal. They’ve always had the skill and the ability but I think it’s the mindset that helped them beat the Aussies.”