The team, captained by Thunder’s Gabriella Marshall, were unbeaten in the tournament, defeating their Welsh rivals 63-56 to claim gold. The 12-strong squad included three young Black and Yellows north west stars alongside Marshall – Alice Travis, Rebekah Airey and Rebecca Hoult. The competition, which took place at Aberdeen Sports Village in Scotland over the weekend, also included a team from the home nation and Northern Ireland. Each match was streamed live on Youtube on a specially set-up channel.
We caught up with captain fantastic Gabby Marshall, who played at wing defence for most of the tournament, to answer some question following England’s victory.
As always it was a huge honour to not only represent my country but to also lead the girls out on the court. This competition was about building as a team on the back of our tour to Australia this summer and it feels great to come away as champions.
How do you approach your captaincy and keep the balance between your own form and keeping your team motivated?
I enjoy leading the team so it doesn’t add any additional pressure or affect how I perform. I actually find it helps me on court – if I make a mistake, I don’t have time to dwell on it as I know I need to be encouraging the girls during the next phase of play.
What is your favourite aspect of being a captain?
I relish being put in difficult situations and having to unite and lead the team through it on court. Being that person hasn’t always come naturally to me so it’s been a great learning curve over the years and I’ve enjoyed learning more about myself and the team whilst in this role.
This is obviously a very talented u21 England Squad, what does the future hold?
We have a great bunch of girls, not only in the 12 that were selected for Netball Europe but in the whole U21 long squad, who are always looking to improve and better themselves. We are currently working towards the World Youth Championships in 2017 and we want to put ourselves in the best possible position to challenge the top nations in the world at this event.
What were the highlights of the tournament for you? Both as a player and as a team?
As a team, it was great that we withstood the pressure against Wales and we stayed strong mentally. We stuck to our game plan but also had the confidence to change things on court when it wasn’t working. For me personally, I played the majority of the tournament at WD whereas in Australia I featured more at C. I enjoyed the different challenge that I faced at WD and was happy that I made an impact in that position.
Some would say you weren’t tested enough by the opposition during the tournament. Would you agree with that?
I disagree with that and I think the scoreline against Wales would highlight how close the competition was this year. Both Wales and Scotland pushed us hard during our games and Northern Ireland are showing improvements. It’s great for the sport that the home nations are getting stronger – we need this progression to challenge England and push us on even further.
England Netball u21 Netball Europe squad: Gabby Marshall (captain) – NW, Francesca Williams (vice-captain) – South, Rebekah Airey – NW, Rhea Dixon – L&SE, George Fisher – East, Rebecca Hoult – NW, Alana John – L&SE, Olivia Leach – L&SE, Vicki Oyesola – L&SE, Jess Shaw – NW, Alice Travis – NW, Lydia Walker – Y&H