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England may not have won, but the World Cup has been a success for netball as a whole

Ama Agbeze
England lost out on a place in the final by losing to New Zealand, but they took the bronze medal  - REUTERS

Even though England haven’t brought home the gold medal, I still think the World Cup itself has been a success. The Liverpudlians have been so amazing and supportive.

The pivoteers - the volunteers at the tournament - have always been smiling and the tournament has had a real home feeling. For England, there’s a sense of disappointment as they set out to achieve something and they haven’t got there.

Despite this, England have played amazingly in this tournament. If you look at how England performed until the semi-final, they were my in-form team. 

The nation got behind England after their Commonwealth Games gold and an increased interest and participation in the sport followed. Despite not achieving what they set out to do, I feel after this World Cup, there will be even more of an interest in the game in this country because the game has had visibility and people have paid attention and that is something to celebrate. It shows netball is starting to become a household name. 

I hope the crowd numbers at the M&S Bank Arena translate into bigger audiences in the Superleague, because that’s what England’s domestic competition massively needs. The World Cup has been amazing in terms of viewing figures on TV and at the arena, but more people going to watch Superleague fixtures will be great for the league’s players and it will generate income for more home-grown talent. 

New Zealand upset Australia to win the netball World Cup Credit: PA

After every World Cup, typically you have retirements and that’s really tough. You’re building afresh and you hope it won’t be a significant number who hang up the dress, as the ramifications are huge.  

England Netball have set aside a development year, starting from August when new England contracts will be offered to players. Ultimately, however, I feel development pathways in the UK need to improve. We definitely don’t have that much depth compared to Australia and New Zealand and that’s one of the main challenges for Tracey Neville’s successor.

In Australia and New Zealand, the club level is just phenomenal. I feel privileged to have played there for 10 years and observed the mindset and mentality that both countries have. At training, you leave everything out on the court. It’s just so different and I’d love that to happen in England. It takes money, it takes time, foresight, wisdom and confidence. Until we have the money, it’s not going to happen. But I think there’s a recognition that at the top level, there’s not enough English people who are playing against the top countries in the world. 

We don’t want to lose our world ranking, that will be important moving forward in terms of pride, but also commercially. But people need to understand it’s important to develop our athletes. The fact that people are more interested in netball - those of the general public who haven’t necessarily been tuned into the sport in the past - was a result of the Commonwealth Games.

If we want to have netball as a commercial entity or product, we need to maintain that level of success. It’ll be a difficult balance for the new coach coming in, which will be a challenge given the development year that England Netball have scheduled from next month, when England will announce new contracts for their players. 

I think lots of support needs to go into the Superleague, where the majority of English players play, so that the up and coming athletes have the opportunity to improve too. Hopefully England Netball can secure more commercial backing to support the current Superleague teams more than they do currently, along with their respective youth teams. Depth extends from the bottom up. 

It’s the Superleague and other pathways lower down the pyramid that impact the Roses. But at the end of the day, it all comes down to funding and how they are able to filter the money. England’s World Cup bronze won’t impact the sport’s immediate funding, but in the long term, it potentially could. 

Tracey Neville stands down as England coach after the World Cup Credit: Getty Images

Tracey Neville won Commonwealth gold for England and that does make her the most successful England coach. She’s a confident and speaks her mind. As a coach, she has said what she wants and people have given her what she’s asked for, which hasn’t been the case for previous England coaches in the past. She’ll look back on this tournament with both pride and regret and will be grateful for the platform that netball has had so close to her hometown - perhaps more so regret, because we came to win gold. Her successor will have tough shoes to fill due to what’s gone before them.