Natalie Haythornthwaite watched her beloved Roses finally bloom and now wants world success to match Commonwealth Games gold.
Keighley-born Haythornthwaite played a key role in club side Wasps netball Super League success and has made a dramatic graduation to the international stage on the Gold Coast.
And the 25-year old was in a state of shock after receiving her gold medal from Olympic heptathlon champion Denise Lewis.
“I just want to start to celebrate with these girls now, it’s going to be quite a party,” she said.
“I was so emotional up on that podium and I can’t believe I’ve got this gold medal, I don’t think I’m ever going to take it off.
“We’ve worked so hard for this and we never stopped believing. Australia are the best team in the world and we’ve just beaten them at their home Commonwealth Games, I’m just in shock. I couldn’t stop the tears on the podium.
“When I think back to when I started in the sport you just don’t think you can achieve this – but anyone can achieve anything if you work hard and keep believing.”
England hadn’t played a major netball final since 1975 but edged out hosts Australia and silenced a partisan home crowd with their second buzzer beating victory in 24 hours.
These girls have certainly learned the art of leaving it late and making you sweat, with Haythornthwaite making a key final quarter contribution from the bench.
Jo Harken drained the last gasp goal to beat Jamaica in the semi-finals and Helen Housby held her nerve to win a dramatic final 52-51.
It sparked scenes reminiscent of the women’s hockey team in Rio, as players rushed onto the court in wide-eyed disbelief, wrapping themselves in flags, rolling around the floor and crying tears of undiluted joy and relief.
The final was always close, as both teams went point for point, never building up more than a slender lead. It was deadlocked at half-time and deadlocked with a second remaining, until Housby’s heroics.
And it could be the start of things to come, with the next World Cup staged on home soil in Liverpool next year
“England netball are just getting started,” added Haythornthwaite
“We’ve been building and building towards this. We’ve got to pinch ourselves but hopefully we can keep building and do it again at the World Cup next year.
“I had every confidence in Helen, it was like watching in slow motion and I was just willing the ball to go in. This squad never gives up, we fight to the very last second and we have each other’s back.”
For Tracey Neville, it was reminiscent of her brothers’ Champions League win 19 years ago.
Gary and Phil Neville won the 1999 European Cup to complete the treble in Barcelona, but that euphoric feeling could easily be transported to Australia’s Gold Coast after an extraordinary performance and astonishing finale.
“Bloomin’ heck,” head coach Tracey Neville said.
“I actually said to them, ‘can you win by a few more goals because this isn’t pleasurable on the bench?’”
Gary Neville was cheering on from his living room in the early hours of the morning, UK time.
“His wife sent me a video,” Tracey Neville said.
“He was literally at the telly going ‘C’mon, Helen, go on’.
“I remember the treble in Barcelona when they put that goal in. I was on tour at the time and I was screaming in a room at 4am.
“Everyone says what does it mean to the Neville family. We just live, eat and breathe sport. We support each other 100 per cent.”
In the roles of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Teddy Sheringham – the stoppage-time goalscorers at the Nou Camp – here were Harten and Housby.
Tracey Neville said: “The actual gold medal was meant to be won at the World Cup next year.
“Hopefully we can back this up.
“This dream can be anyone’s. Everyone wants to win, even my mum at 64 who is still playing,” she added.
* npower is the Official Partner of Team England and is giving our athletes the power of support by recording a brand new version of their anthem, Jerusalem. To listen to the track visit npower.com/teamengland