The sisterhood of touring netball followers comes full circle in Birmingham

Sport is sometimes called the good unifier and praised for its capacity to carry folks collectively.

Maybe Indian cricket legend Sunil Gavaskar summed it up finest when he stated, “no matter language you communicate … the language of sport is frequent.”

Whereas Pat Haden, Sue Bailey, Almena Theobald and Margaret Mumford cheer on England’s netball crew on the Commonwealth Video games, they treasure each second they see their beloved Rose enjoying as a lot as they simply love spending time collectively.

Though all of them communicate English and do not have to fret about that barrier, this group of ladies have challenged their geographic challenges to maintain displaying up for one another.

Put together to look at a match on the 2019 Liverpool World Cup.(Picture: provided)

All 4 had volunteered on the 1995 World Championships in Birmingham and never lengthy afterwards joined forces when a mutual pal launched them in hopes of assembling a bunch to take part within the subsequent event in Christchurch.

In a manner, they’ve now come full circle as they take their seats on the Nationwide Leisure Enviornment, reflecting on their friendship since it began in Birmingham itself.

“He stated, ‘I’ve these two girls who wish to include us’ and so all of us met,” recalled Pat.

“We preferred one another, we went to New Zealand collectively in a bunch of 5 at that time and by likelihood we acquired alongside very effectively.”

“We dwell in separate components of the nation, however attempt to meet at Superleague matches and all worldwide matches which might be held right here … it additionally seems that all of us wish to journey, so collaborating in main tournaments has grow to be an effective way to journey. and watch the netball “.

Pat Haden hat from netball tournaments
Pat Haden has collected pins in each event.(Picture: Brittany Carter)

Throughout their time as a bunch, the buddies traveled abroad to Australia twice, New Zealand twice, in addition to Jamaica and Singapore. Then there are the locations that netball has introduced them to the UK, similar to Glasgow, Liverpool and Manchester.

Additionally they participated in a few Netball World Youth Cups to help England U21.

Within the meantime, in case you return and depend the tournaments that every of them individually participated in earlier than their adventures related, the group’s collective tally is much more spectacular.

These Birmingham Commonwealth Video games mark the sixteenth most vital netball event they’ve participated in, with the primary on the record relationship again to Almena all the best way to the 1963 World Championships in Eastbourne.

2015 World Cup Sydney
Having enjoyable on the Netball World Cup in Sydney.(Picture: provided)

Earlier than Australia and New Zealand had been often known as Diamonds or Silver Ferns, they set the tone for the subsequent 60 years of netball after they established their standing as the highest two groups within the inaugural event.

The Australians gained gold, New Zealand completed second and England completed third.

For a lot of the game’s life, these placings had been additionally mirrored on this planet rankings.

Whereas this narrative wasn’t fairly performed out in these Commonwealth Video games, that story has since dictated how we choose ends in follow matches and main occasions.

For instance, when the Silver Ferns completed fourth and misplaced a medal on the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Video games, their marketing campaign was thought of an enormous failure and led to an overhaul of their teaching workers.

Netball group at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games
The group of associates on the Glasgow 2014 Video games.(Picture: provided)

Equally, the one-goal defeat that the Diamonds conceded within the remaining of these Video games in 2018 and once more on the 2019 World Cup noticed Netball Australia and supervisor Lisa Alexander cut up after spending almost a decade on the helm.

This excessive stage of expectation might sound fairly harsh – contemplating others can be thrilled to get their palms on a silver medal – however Almena says Australia’s requirements particularly have pushed world netball to be higher.

“Girls’s sport has come this far and there’s a enormous distinction in how they play netball as we speak,” stated Almena.

“It is the sensation, girls are extra self-confident and at the moment are handled like athletes … that first phrase of champions was performed on a traditional asphalt pitch and the principles have clearly modified.”

“However we now have to thank Australia very a lot, as a result of they took a extra trendy strategy to netball and gave the women an opportunity, so effectively achieved Australia.”

2015 Sydney NWC
Take in some sunshine in Sydney on the 2015 Netball World Cup.(Picture: provided)

Pat additionally added that the peak of the gamers has grown enormously throughout his years of watching the game.

“The women now have a a lot greater presence, they’re taller and stronger.

“I used to be a defender and I thought of myself fairly tall, however there isn’t a likelihood of constructing it in that space now, I ought to play in midfield.”

Sadly, the group was unable to journey to Australia for the third time to attend the 2018 Commonwealth Video games.

Because of this, they misplaced the one time England gained a gold medal in a serious event.

English netballers celebrate their gold medal victory against Australia
England beat Australia 52-51 by profitable gold on the 2018 Video games.(AAP: Tracey Nearmy)

They made certain to tune in from residence for the ultimate one within the wee hours of the morning, however Pat says they’re nonetheless dissatisfied that they misplaced it in individual, particularly since they beat the Aussies.

“I inform you, it may be humiliating to be English if you go to those competitions as a result of in the long run it’s a must to smile when folks say ‘England effectively tried, effectively tried’.

“It might have been good to have been to Australia for that, I am not saying we might have rubbed our noses, however we may have achieved it, just a bit.”

Commonwealth Games 2022
The 4 girls loved the Birmingham Video games.(Picture: Brittany Carter)

Certain, netball was the curiosity that tied all of them collectively, however shut associates have developed some new traditions through the years.

“Now let’s have a look at the brand new 12 months collectively,” Sue stated, “Wherever we’re, we make the journey to fulfill in a single place and rejoice.”

“We additionally like to fulfill two or thrice a 12 months and do the weekly zoom with a cup of tea or a glass of wine.”

Record of appearances at main netball occasions

1963 – Eastbourne

1979 – Port of Spain

1987 – Glasgow

1991 – Sidney

1995 – Birmingham

1999 – Christchurch

2002 – Manchester

2003 – Kingston

2005 – Fort Lauderdale (Youth)

2007 – Auckland

2011 – Singapore

2013 – Glasgow (youth)

2014 – Glasgow

2015 – Sydney

2019 – Liverpool

2022 – Birmingham

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