Known for scoring high pressure-shots with ease and consistently having among the best shooting averages in the domestic and international game, role models don’t come much better for young shooters. And it was Harten-like composure we saw from Clinton when the 19-year-old was tasked with entering a nauseatingly-tense game to replace regular shooter Joyce Mvula in the final quarter.
Manchester Thunder were chasing Loughborough Lighting’s lead down in the closing minutes, Clinton somehow blocked out the deafening noise in a sold-out Thunderdome to calmly turn and score in the dying seconds. But in all the chaos, the final whistle had blown and Clinton’s shot hadn’t counted. It was a particularly tough pill to swallow for the Oldham-born player, but the real story here is that she scored a goal even the great Jo Harten may have missed. Clinton’s appearances this season have all been from the bench, with coach Karen Greig opting to use her as an impact sub. It’s working and most importantly, a more-mature-than-her-years Clinton understands why. “When I sit on the bench, I am always learning, I want to get whatever I can this season,” the England U21 explains. “I think ‘I could get on and then take the opportunity when I do. It doesn’t bother me sitting on the bench as I learn from the game going on and watching Joyce is really helpful as she’s so good.”
Amy has been in the England development setup for several years and has broken into the U21 squad, making the recently-announced in the team for the England Netball Youth World Cup preparation tour. But the pinnacle came last autumn, when she was drafted into the senior Roses squad for the first time, for the home International Series with Jamaica. Amy may not have gained any court time for that trio of tests, but it was a valuable experience for her. She said: “There is a lot of travelling with the U21s but I really enjoy it. I’m working hard in training and especially in weights as I want and need to get stronger. This year has been all about netball.”
Amy’s dedication to her sport is paying off, but the star is keen to pursue something else next year, after going off the idea of studying accountancy. One career she will not be pursuing is coaching, but she certainly has some great ones to emulate if she changes her mind. “I’d hate to coach or umpire, it’s not for me,” she declares. “I have so many good ones and it’s great to play with players I used to watch like Kerry Almond and Emma Dovey. I’ve been around Karen since I was 14 and she really knows her stuff. Liana Leota is just amazing. She is always talking to me and giving me advice on court and I have really come on since she has been involved with Thunder. I just love having Kathryn Turner in the circle with me and it really helps that I play with her at Oldham and she’s having such a good season.”
The talented athlete, who is also a purple belt in jiu jitsu, may only be at the start of her netball career, but she already knows how to win, having graduated from a multiple-title winning NPL squad to a Black and Yellows team on the prowl for a first Superleague championship win since 2014. Thunder’s gutting loss to Lightning in the last round was their first in nine games, a run which has placed them firmly in the play-off places. And Amy wants to get that winning feeling back. To always chase it. She added: “Not having loads of money in netball kind of motivates me and makes it a bit better in a way. It pushes you to keep winning and that’s the reward. If you were getting £30k per week then everything may be a bit half- hearted as you are going to get paid anyway.”
It was a topsy-turvy off-season for Thunder with a number of players leaving and after a disappointing start, Clinton is convinced Thunder have found their groove and will get the chance to play in finals weekend at Manchester Arena in June. Clinton said: “It has always been my dream to play for Thunder and I’m Thunder through and through. We can win the league this year. Anything is possible. The Wasps win (away in round six) was incredible, that is the feeling we just keep chasing. We pulled each other through all the changes. We got the new players into the groove and lots of players stayed. Now stepping on to court in that England dress is my dream.”
Used to being Harten’s ‘fangirl’ Clinton is still getting used to attention from zealous Thunder fans. But she finds it ‘really cool’ that fans still ask for a selfie even though she ‘hasn’t played much.’ “A few years back I was walking into weights with England and I said ‘mum that’s Jo Harten’ and freaked out. I totally fangirled,” she recalls. Amy may be the super-sub right now, and despite being comfortable waiting in the wings, her idol Harten may need to start looking over her shoulder. The master could soon be replaced by her protégé.
Feature by Denise Evans