After what was an outstanding four days of competitive netball in Cardiff, Wales Netball would firstly like to thank the incredible team of volunteers that helped to make the Netball Europe Open Championship possible. We are grateful to all of the players, coaches, physios, managers, umpires, officials ball girls and boys and, of course, fans, who all contributed to what was a fantastic showcase for our sport. We would also like to thank Mark Perkins who did a fabulous job as our announcer!
We would particularly like to thank the staff of Sport Wales who helped us to stage the event. We were deeply saddened to learn of the death of Paul Garrett on Friday afternoon. Paul had worked for Sport Wales for 30 years and was a friend and colleague to those who work for Wales Netball. Sport Wales staff continued to perform their duties in helping Wales Netball stage the competition and are extremely grateful for their support in what were very challenging circumstances.
This year, the Netball Europe title was retained by England as they went unbeaten throughout the four days of competition. After overcoming Wales, both Scotland and Northern Ireland were left to fight it out for the silver medal on the final day of competition. Northern Ireland prevailed in a very tight encounter and there was further joy for the players in green as goal-shooter Lisa Bowman was awarded the Player of the Tournament prize.
It was wonderful to welcome Fiji to Wales for the very first time and we hope that they and their passionate fans enjoyed their time in Cardiff. It was also great to witness Leila Thomas and Christina Shaw being awarded their very first senior caps for Wales!
Ultimately, it was a disappointing tournament for Wales. Despite a comprehensive victory over Fiji, Wales were beaten in a closely contested game against Scotland and narrowly lost out to Northern Ireland. Given just how close the match between the Thistles and NI was, Wales may look back with regret on some missed opportunities.
Welsh coach, Trish Wilcox made an honest assessment of the Welsh performance at the tournament. She said: “We are disappointed with our final placing at Netball Europe. We had our opportunities in both the Northern Ireland and Scotland game however errors at critical moments let us down.”
However, she was pleased that the team had taken opportunities to introduce new players: “Positives were the amount of exposure we gave to our young under 21 players coming through who would have grown so much from the experience to take forwards into the Netball World Cup Qualifying campaign. Our focus is now solidifying our combinations and connections so that our links are tight by January. ”
Her thoughts were echoed by wing-defence, Nia Jones who is looking forward to the future with the squad. She said: “I have absolutely belief that this squad of players is a work in progress. The exposure this week has been invaluable, and we will be better and wiser come the big one in January [World Cup qualifiers].”
She also thanked the fans and volunteers for their “passionate support” during the tournament.