SJA Sports Team of the Year: The case for England Netball’s Roses

VOTING HAS NOW CLOSED to decide the winners of three major categories at the British Sports Awards 2023, to be held at The Kia Oval in London on 7 December; Jake Wightman, Beth Mead and the Lionesses claimed the 2022 honours; who will take the top prizes this year?

By Ben Crawford

There is seldom a sport that has been so dominated internationally by two sides than netball.

Australia and New Zealand had contested every single World Cup final since the tournament switched to a semi-final/final format in 1991.

Every. Single. Final. That was, until, this year.

The Vitality Roses didn’t just break the mould when making this year’s final, they obliterated it.

To say their 46-40 semi-final win against New Zealand was historic doesn’t do it justice.

Despite falling to 12-time champions Australia in the final, the Roses did what few expected them to do in claiming their silver medals and inspired a generation

The Netball World Cup saw a surge in popularity, with 5.6 million tuning in to watch the tournament, compared to 4.5 million four years ago.

Thousands of new netball fans may have tuned into the sport for the first time during the 2023 Netball World Cup final in Cape Town.

Thousands of aspiring players may have felt their eyes glaze over at the thought of one day representing their country on the highest stage, now knowing, “we can do it”.

For the Vitality Roses, the year domestically spurred on their international success.

Fran Williams’ Loughborough Lightning claimed their second Superleague title in England, beating Olivia Tchine and Funmi Fadoju’s London Pulse in the final.

Eleanor Caldwell’s Adelaide Thunderbirds also claimed a league title, and she was jubilant in defeat after the World Cup final.

She said: “There’s so many positives. This is the first World Cup final for every name on the team sheet and a lot of those Diamonds players have a whole lot of experience.

“I am super proud of us making history. Last year at the Commonwealth Games, we came fourth and were gutted. This year, we’ve got a silver medal.”

The team have also almost single-handedly forced the league to be rebranded, as the Netball Superleague will be relaunched in 2025.

England Netball state that this is “a significant milestone in England Netball’s ambition to build the most competitive, commercially vibrant and captivating professional netball league in the world”.

This team have reshaped their sport during 2023, and in the process have chiselled themselves onto the rock of netball history.

Sports journalist Ben Crawford is a member of the SJA Academy – find out more about membership here.

Visit our SJA British Sports Awards 2023 hub article for more information. To book your place at the Awards lunch on Thursday 7 December, click here.

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