Natalie spent the day with St Andrew’s Prep and Eastbourne College pupils speaking about the dedication and hard work required to be part of a successful team, before answering questions from the girls, and then putting them through their paces in a series of masterclasses. The visit, organised by Eastbourne College’s Director of Netball, ex-England international and super league coach, Lisa Price, marked a fitting end to the College’s ‘Year of the Girl’ activities with a hopeful message attached - that, with the right support, UK women’s sport can be world-beating.
To achieve gold at the Commonwealth Games is tantamount to winning an Olympic gold medal and is the highest accolade the sport currently offers. Natalie, playing in the position of wing attack, was on court when the ‘England Roses’ team defeated tournament favourites Australia in the dying seconds of the final to claim gold. The iconic photograph of the elated England team, and the message it conveyed, echoed around the globe, placing UK Netball on the proverbial sporting map, just two years after the team had managed to secure £3 million worth of elite Sport England funding.
Recently named Team of the Year at the Sports Journalists’ Association British Sports Awards 2018, the Sunday Times Sports Women of the Year Awards and the BT Sport Action Woman Awards, the BBC TV Sports Personality of the Year 2018 announced that the ‘Vitality Roses’ (their new name, having secured a three year sponsorship deal from Vitality insurance) has been shortlisted for the prestigious Team of the Year 2018 award and the Greatest Sporting Moment of 2018 award.
Headmaster of Eastbourne College, Tom Lawson, thanked Natalie for her time and insight into the world of elite UK netball, noting that, ‘So many girls have been inspired today by her presence and the message of empowerment that she brings.’
Impressed by Natalie’s positive effect on the pupils, he implored,‘I do hope the positive vibes emanating from Team England, England Netball and the Vitality Roses, can be matched by similar vibes from Sport England, to continue funding the success story beyond 2019.’
Gareth Jones, St Andrew’s Prep Headmaster concurred and added,‘Opportunities to hear about the benefits of team sport first-hand from a sportswoman at the very pinnacle of her game don’t come along very often. Most of us are aware of the psychological and social benefits but St Andrew’s Prep also believes the life skills gained including respect, resilience, discipline, problem-solving and humility are equally as important, as well as the sheer fun and enjoyment that sport offers.’