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Sporting landscape changed forever with England’s victory over Australia

PUBLISHED: 08:21 15 April 2018 | UPDATED: 08:22 15 April 2018

The England netball team celebrate winning gold in the Netball at the  Commonwealth Games. Picture Martin Rickett/PA Wire.

The England netball team celebrate winning gold in the Netball at the Commonwealth Games. Picture Martin Rickett/PA Wire.

PA Wire

In the second it took Helen Housby to net the winning goal for the England Roses in the Commonwealth Games final, netball and women’s sport was changed forever.

England's Helen Houseby celebrates scoring the winning goal in the  Netball final at the Commonwealth Games. Picture Martin Rickett/PA Wire.England's Helen Houseby celebrates scoring the winning goal in the Netball final at the Commonwealth Games. Picture Martin Rickett/PA Wire.

Never before had a team other than New Zealand or Australia won the gold medal at the games but on the Gold Coast Tracey Neville’s team made history, beating the Aussie Diamonds in the final seconds.

The criticism of the Commonwealth Games is usually that it doesn’t feature world class teams, but with netball’s absence from the Olympics, the best teams were at these games and England were world class in winning the tournament.

Spearheaded by veteran Geva Mentor, the Roses overcame New Zealand, Jamaica and finally Australia to win that gold medal, a gold medal which will be celebrated by anyone who has ever taken to a netball court in England.

I remember first playing the sport at the age of 10 thanks to Mrs Allen at Attleborough Junior School. It took years before I ever watched a live elite match, as at that time they just weren’t shown on TV.

Watching the New Zealand Silver Ferns play in London, I was in awe of the likes of Irene van Dyk and I was inspired to try and emulate, even a little, of what I saw.

Now at the age of 25 I am inspired all over again by this England gold medal and thousands of women and girls up and down the country will be too.

Norfolk has a thriving netball community with the likes of Norfolk United playing in the national Premier League and hundreds playing in both competitive and social leagues week in, week out.

And it is not just players. Many people give up their spare time to coach and umpire, parents drive their daughters hundreds of miles for matches and training sessions and clubs work tirelessly to constantly improve.

In the past all of this hard work by these people has gone all but unnoticed by those other than the netball community.

This gold medal has got to change this.

This gold medal must put netball and women’s sport at the forefront, more matches most be shown on TV and the players must be rewarded for their achievements.

I know there will be a 10-year-old girl somewhere in the country, who like myself 15 years ago, has just started playing netball.

But unlike me, these games will have given her a glimpse of what is possible and the legacy of this gold medal must be that women and girls are inspired for generations to come.

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