Helen Housby exclusive: ‘We need to ensure 2018 glory was not a one-off for English netball’

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Helen Housby splits life into two very distinct parts: life before that goal in 2018 and life beyond that seminal moment.

Repeatedly she had read and heard how netball was the one guaranteed gold for Australia at those Commonwealth Games while living in the host nation ahead of the tournament, as she has been again until last month.

And yet as the protagonist of the winning moment of a thrilling final, it was Housby whose goal changed both her life and that of the England netball team.

It sparked a spotlight on the sport; awards ceremonies, sponsorship deals and, crucially, a massive rise in participation numbers, including Housby’s own mother who still eagerly messages her daughter if she has a notable performance on court.

Now the 26-year-old is back in London for her first appearance for England since the 2019 World Cup as part of the three-match Roses Reunited series against Jamaica starting on Sunday.

It seems unthinkable that Housby can ever eclipse the gold-medal winning events of 2018 for pure drama but, in a big season including a Commonwealth Games title defence in August, that is her target.

“I don’t want to say it can’t be eclipsed as I want something to work for and look forward to,” she tells Standard Sport. “It was an incredible moment and changed netball in this country, and how we see ourselves on the world stage.

“Winning more comfortably would be nice, easier on the heart rate! But I’m excited for what the next couple of years brings for England.”

Housby is an established figure on the club and international scene – “I don’t want to say old, more experienced,” she says – and still feels at times like she is riding the crest of the wave from that one successful shot on goal in particular.

“It’s funny but I look at life before the Commonwealth Games and after, it’s so different,” she explains. “Not just in netball terms but things outside like social media. Everything changed completely after the Games and we’re still feeling the effects of it now with interest in netball and me personally.

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(Getty Images)

“At the start, it was quite daunting and overwhelming but I’m very appreciative of it. I want to put netball on the main stage and do everything to make it a better place.”

With her play, she has continued doing that, most recently in winning the Super Netball grand final for the NSW Swifts at the end of a bizarre, Covid-affected season.

She played her opening three games of the season in Sydney where she was based before darting around the country in a bid to dodge the various state lockdowns and keep playing.

“Cases first started to rise in New South Wales and we got word we were going into lockdown and we found out we had to escape,” she recalls.

“We had less than a day to escape Sydney. We were initially told we’d be gone for two weeks but it was months and I never returned to Sydney before the end of the season.”

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

The road and air trip took her to Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Melbourne, Adelaide and finally a return to Brisbane, city hopping that involved last-minute midnight charter flights to various temporary homes. It became commonplace to buy milk and butter in the various apartments she stayed only to leave it behind untouched.

“It was a lot of stress but being forced into a situation like that really helps if you’ve got strong bonds with teammates,” she says.

She is confident of transferring that club form to international level, the idea in her mind being that winning only makes her want to win more.

“The ultimate goal is to do that repeatedly for England,” she adds. “We had a taste of that in 2019 and we want more. The 2018 success can’t be a one-off.

“There are a lot more eyes looking at us and expecting us to deliver but that’s just the nature of sport. We have to take that on our shoulders, embrace it and love it. It’s the only way we’re going to succeed.”

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