The English national netball team may be hurtling towards a Commonwealth Games rematch against Australia on Wednesday evening, but the Roses have already had their brush with netballing talent in Newcastle.
A handful of Souths Lions stars, all of whom contested the Greater Open Championship decider less than a month ago, rounded out the Roses’ training roster on Monday and Tuesday as they prepared for the Quad Series clash, an experience Tianna Cummings described as “mind-blowing”.
“We had to submit a request – or kind of a suggestion – to Netball Australia that told them we were happy to train with the Diamonds and the Roses, and they came back to us and said we were up to train for England,” Cummings explained.
“None of us really expected to hear back about it so it was a really surreal experience to suddenly be practicing and playing with these girls that we watch on TV all the time.
“I think we all had so much fun, it was a real eye opener to see what it was like behind the doors of the English training squad, it was really mind-blowing.”
Cummings was joined by four of her Souths Lions teammates, Narelle Eather, Katelyn Stansfield, Brooke Fennings and Nakita Jackson, most of whom will also be attending the Quad Series game at the Newcastle Entertainment Centre.
While most were just looking to “enjoy some great netball”, Cummings admits after spending time with the Roses she may have been swayed to back them “just a little”.
“It’s funny, I was going into the game just keen to not have to travel to Sydney and get to see some amazing netty here in Newcastle, but now I’m kind of barracking for England as well,” she admitted.
“Having met them all, and finding out how lovely and welcoming they all are, I want to see them do well in the game for sure.”
The Souths cohort were mainly used by the Roses as training partners, setting up defensive formations to test the English attack, but Cummings also believes they learned a lot “just hanging around with them all”.
“I think we’ve all come out of it having picked up a few things, just seeing how they work together and move up close was a bit eye opening,” she said.
“I think it was really one of those ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunities that we’re going to relish for a long time, it was just really cool. I’m glad I got to meet them all, and I think we all had a pretty good time.”
A sell-out crowd of 4,500 will attend the first netball Test match staged in Newcastle since the Diamonds beat South Africa 63-31 in October, 2012.
Adding to the occasion, it will be the first time Australia and England have met since the Roses scored a memorable 52-51 boilover to claim the gold medal at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, in April.
Australia opened their Quad Series campaign with a 61-44 win against South Africa in Auckland on the weekend, in which goal shooter Caitlin Bassett found the net 31 times from 34 attempts.
The match starts at the Newcastle Entertainment Centre at 7.50pm.