English Roses loom as Comm Games threat

England netball coach Tracey Neville lays down the law to her Roses team ahead of the Comm Games.
England netball coach Tracey Neville lays down the law to her Roses team ahead of the Comm Games.

Growing up with twin brother and England soccer giant Phil Neville has given English netball coach Tracey Neville a unique insight as she prepares her improved side for a Commonwealth Games raid in April.

England will arrive on the Gold Coast as arguably Australia's greatest threat for a fourth title in six Games after three wins against world No.2 New Zealand and two four-goal losses to Australia since August.

But Neville, the twin of England and Manchester United defender Phil and sister of fellow international Gary, will not be sidetracked by their expectations.

"Netball is a low-key media sport and you can get dazzled by the lights, but having my family and seeing what I've seen, we haven't noticed those dazzling lights," said Neville, herself a Commonwealth Games netball bronze medallist in 1998.

"I'm definitely over that (storyline), it's lost its flavour (being a Neville) but it has kept us realistic and very level," Neville told AAP.

Helping England's revival is the fact almost half of the English squad play in Australia's Super League, with Geva Mentor at defending champions Sunshine Coast, Serena Guthrie and Jo Harten at the Giants, Helen Housby a NSW Swift and Chelsea Pitman at Adelaide.

"We work closely with the clubs in Australia and that's been instrumental in progressing them in the last two years," Neville said.

"The whole professionalism of English netball has changed. We've gone from having seven to 30 full-time netballers in the last two years."

New Zealand's national side has dipped since separating from the Australian league, with national players contractually obliged to play in their native league.

"They believe their league can be the best in the world too and you can understand that," Neville said.

"Financially we're not in a position to fund that in England. But our players have benefited from playing in all three comps and I think, generally, players should get a diversity of coaching.

"That exposure has been great for us and South Africa in the Quad Series; we're not on the back foot anymore."

England and New Zealand will meet in the separate pool to Australia in April.

"It seems we've won, then lost, then won, then lost (to New Zealand)," the coach said.

"We've got to beat them then beat them again.

"Everything for us will come down to making that (Commonwealth Games) final. We've never made one and you've got to be in it to win it."

Australian Associated Press