Meet the Roses Rising to Netball Europe title defence

England Netball U21 squad (Credit: England Netball)

TASS supported athletes will be out in force as the Netball Europe 2018 tournament gets underway in Belfast this week. We caught up with two of our own ahead of the action.

TASS and England Netball have a proud history of working together to nurture the nation’s best emerging talent. And Netball Europe is the perfect opportunity to watch England’s rising stars develop into the Commonwealth Games medallists of the future.

Many of Tracey Neville’s senior squad – chasing gold at next year’s World Cup on home soil – earned their stripes at a competition renowned as a tough breeding ground for the next big things.

And Severn Stars’ Iona Darroch knows a solid showing in Northern Ireland could catapult her into contention for a Roses call-up in 2019. The Cheshire native, studying Illustration at Worcester University, will tackle the cream of the continent buoyed by the performance of her senior colleagues in Australia earlier this year.

“England winning gold at the Commonwealth Games has been massive for netball,” said the 20-year-old. “I am lucky enough to train with some of the girls that were part of the winning squad and they are a real inspiration to me and it was great to see all their hard work pay off!

“Seeing how they performed at the Games is an inspiration for anyone who watched and I’m sure lots of young girls look up to the Roses as role models and are keen to get involved in netball as a result.

“It is very exciting to see the sport grow and to get such a big reaction following the Games in the lead up to the World Cup in Liverpool next year.”

Like Darroch, Team Bath’s Sophie Drakeford-Lewis can’t wait to lock horns with Scotland, Wales et al in Northern Ireland this month. And she shares her team-mate’s view that Commonwealth gold has rejuvenated netball in England.

“There is such a buzz around the Commonwealth Games win,” said the 19-year-old University of Bath undergraduate. “It has been so positive for netball in this country. Hopefully the momentum will continue and netball as a sport will develop even further as a result.”

Both Darroch and Drakeford-Lewis juggle blossoming netball careers with full-time education and both will miss classes at their respective universities during Netball Europe. It’s a position hundreds of TASS-supported students find themselves in several times a year but the support for dual career athletes has never been so far-reaching, focused and effective.

“Netball Europe does fall at a challenging time,” added Drakeford-Lewis, who studies Integrated Mechanical and Electrical Engineering. “However, we face challenges like this at various times throughout the year. It is a case of making sure you know what you’re missing at University and ensuring that if you are going to miss critical classes then you let your tutor know as early as possible.”

Darroch added: “Over the course of the Netball Europe competition I will be missing some lectures but the support from my university has been great. They have helped me manage my time so that I can easily catch up on what I miss. I can focus on my netball while I’m away.”

TASS works in tandem with universities across England to offer unrivalled support to student athletes and Guy Taylor, National Director, said: “It’s great that rising stars like Iona and Sophie can represent their country with confidence, knowing that TASS is working alongside university staff to enable them to pursue a dual career path.”