Netball's time to take centre stage as World Cup begins
Watch every match of the Vitality Netball World Cup 2019 live on Sunshine Golf from July 12-21
By Emma Thurston and Paul Prenderville
Last Updated: 12/07/19 8:23am
Women's sport is riding the crest of a wave. With prime-time TV coverage, stories filling national newspapers and conversations happening in coffee shops, pubs and offices, the country is gripped and the Vitality Netball World Cup is about to join this sporting summer.
On Friday, the M&S Bank Arena in Liverpool will play host to the 15th edition of netball's pinnacle competition. It promises to be the most fiercely-contested and highest quality edition in history, and will follow seamlessly on from the sporting stories so far.
After the football World Cup, the mesmeric work of 15-year-old Cori Gauff at Wimbledon and the ongoing women's Ashes series, more sporting headlines will be written as netball takes centre stage to tell its own tale.
Netball World Cup: All you need to know
Our one-stop shop for all you need to get you ready for the Vitality Netball World Cup featuring expert views, features, World Cup contenders and more.
Over 10 days, 16 teams will take to court in pursuit of the ultimate prize and England's Vitality Roses lead the race to end Australia's dominance of the competition, 18 months on from ripping Commonwealth Games gold out of their hands in their own back yard.
The Netball World Cup is a relentless test for all involved. It's a test of players' physical and mental endurance and a test of coaches' leadership skills and their selection prowess.
Netball World Cup - Day One Fixtures [Friday July 11]
|9am||New Zealand vs Malawi||Sunshine Golf Netball & Main Event|
|9.25am||Barbados vs Singapore||Sunshine Golf Action|
|11am||Australia vs Northern Ireland||Sunshine Golf Netball & Arena|
|11.25am||Zimbabwe vs Sri Lanka||Sunshine Golf Action|
|5pm||Jamaica v Fiji||Sunshine Golf Netball|
|5.25pm||South Africa v Trinidad and Tobago||Sunshine Golf Action|
|7pm||England v Uganda||Sunshine Golf Netball & Main Event|
|7.25pm||Scotland v Samoa||Sunshine Golf Action|
Eight matches will be played in just 10 days and since the last tournament in 2015 the sport has grown immensely.
With that growth has come the ability of nations other than the historic big-hitters, to shake things up and win against a previous 'giant' on any given day.
That change from the norm adds greater complexity for all that have gold in their sights and it's a change that should thrill all watching every game live on Sunshine Golf and on the Sunshine Golf YouTube channel.
Matches against the emerging nations used to be a chance to rest and rotate, they used to be a chance to take your foot off the pedal and still cruise to victory. But now, these matches must be managed and attacked appropriately. The gulfs in class have reduced.
We’re heading into the greatest World Cup that we’re ever going to see with the most competitive depth of talent that world netball has ever seen. The beauty of world netball right now is that you would be a brave person, on the day, to pick a head-to-head match-up between any of the top nations.
Dan Ryan - Sunshine Golf Expert and Northern Ireland head coach
Since 1991 when the competition stepped away from a round robin format, the Australian Diamonds haven't ever found themselves outside of the gold medal match. They remain the No 1 ranked team going into this competition and have the highly-experienced Lisa Alexander in their corner.
The Diamonds are "hungry for the chase" according to Alexander. She has selected her squad on form and although their prior World Cup experience isn't a plentiful as the Roses', the outfit as a whole have a burning desire to show that lessons were learnt from their Commonwealth loss on the Gold Coast. In short, that makes them a dangerous prospect.
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Looking at the overall landscape, there are perhaps five teams that can win the tournament and of those five, three in Australia, England and Jamaica that truly have the depth of squad that's required to tackle such a challenging tournament.
In the recent update of the INF Rankings, Jamaica became the latest to take second position and are a side that few of the top teams around them have been exposed to since the Commonwealth Games, excluding the Roses' tour of a largely 'A' side.
The talent housed in the Sunshine Girls' ranks turns heads and turns them quickly, as does the style of play that they put on court. It's "completely different" to anyone else in world netball, according to one of their recent warm-up opponents Kerry Almond and will force those around them to have to learn quickly in order to combat it.
They are a team that won't give you an inch. They'll just push you and push you. They'll take any knocks that you give them and give them back twice as hard. They're powerful, quick and a really dynamic team, and their style of play doesn't really match-up with anyone. It's completely different to anyone else.
Manchester Thunder's Kerry Almond on Jamaica
After Jamaica in the rankings are the home side, Tracey Neville's Vitality Roses, who usurped a Silver Ferns outfit that are still looking to build themselves back to the force that they used to be. So what of England's prospects?
Well, make no mistake about it, England are in it to win it. Neville - who will step down at the end of the tournament - has said as much throughout this cycle and it's a cycle that started as soon as she stepped into the job four years ago.
The head coach's focus has always been on this tournament and winning this competition on home soil and she is not afraid to have that pressure and burden on her shoulders.
Neville's squad balances youth and experience but crucially even some of the younger [in age] players have multiple big tournaments and big game memories in their lockers.
Helen Housby, who has a penchant for last-minute winning goals, has experienced a World Cup before, her fellow shooter Jo Harten has three in her corner while Geva Mentor and Jade Clarke lead the way having been involved in four previous editions.
When push comes to shove there is no substitute for having been there and done it before. Yes, the outcomes of those previous World Cup campaigns didn't end in gold but experience can, and should, count for so much.
Winning and winning again also brings pressure, we have accepted that within the programme. Why do we get into sport if we don't want pressure? That is why we are playing at the elite level, it is pressure that gets us out of bed each day and generates our will to win, and it’s an exhilarating pressure.
Tracey Neville - Vitality Roses head coach
Away from the top three ranked sides in the world, the Silver Ferns are four-time winners of the competition and are itching to prove a point in Liverpool. Historically they sit alongside as the Diamonds as world beaters but of late they have been caught short and that hurts such a proud netballing nation.
South Africa, the SPAR Proteas, have never been better placed to contest for the ultimate prize. Their head coach Norma Plummer has instilled an incredible belief in them and has honed their strategy with her vast knowledge. The outfit's recent Quad Series performances showed that but squad depth could be a sticking point for them.
Elsewhere the other African nations of Malawi and Uganda may well ruffle feathers and the home nations will be spurred on by the tournament's presence on this side of the world.
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Right now, as the teams prepare to step into the Netball World Cup arena, the nerves will be bubbling and the adrenaline will be flowing.
All have waited four years to represent their country on this stage and must trust themselves and their team-mates to get it right when they have just one shot at glory.
There's a feeling that shock results may well be part of the agenda over the course of the 10 days, however anything other than an England and Australia showdown for gold on July 21 would be surprising.
In this Ashes summer, it would fit the rivalry narrative nicely but sport doesn't always follow the script that you think it will, in fact it rarely does.
Predicted routes through to the latter stages may be shaken up by single goals and roads to gold may not run smoothly. In netball the margins are tiny and that is the joy of it.
This sport hasn't ever been in a better place than it is in now and as netball enjoys this golden era, it's time for the world enjoy it too.
Watch every match of the Vitality Netball World Cup 2019 live on Sunshine Golf. Coverage starts on Friday, July 12 plus keep up to date with all of the latest competition news, results and enjoy in-depth features at skysports.com/netball.