At Gold Coast 2018, the England netball team echoed the achievement of the Great Britain hockey team at Rio 2016 when they won all seven matches to win the biggest title on offer in their sport.
The England Roses thumped Scotland 74-28 and took down Malawi 74-49. They then faltered slightly against Uganda but scraped a 55-49 victory, before returning to form with 85-31 demolition of Wales.
Crucially, the Roses beat New Zealand 54-45 in their final group match. This meant they finished top of Pool B and faced Jamaica in the semi-finals. Despite trailing 33-27 at half-time, England beat the Sunshine Girls 56-55 thanks to a last-minute goal from Jo Harten.
What happened in the final will go down in netball folklore. England, who had not beaten Australia since 2013, matched their hosts for the first two quarters to go into the half-time break at 25-all. They then fell behind in the third quarter before storming back in the final quarter to claim a famous 52-51 win with Helen Housby’s already iconic goal in the dying seconds.
The Players who won Gold
Voted the World’s Best Netballer in 2014 and the Suncorp Super Netball Player of the Year in 2017, England’s last line of defence was frequently described on BBC Sport commentary during the Commonwealth Games as the best goal keeper in the world. And she showed exactly why during the Roses’ seven matches as she made countless crucial interventions to keep opposition shooters at bay.
Mentor, 33, was born in Bournemouth and has 126 England caps. She won the Netball Superleague in 2006 and 2007 with Team Bath and spent time at Surrey Storm. However, she has played most of her club netball in Australasia.
The goal keeper initially moved to Adelaide Thunderbirds in 2008 and then won two Premierships during six years at the Melbourne Vixens. Mentor is now the captain of Sunshine Coast Lightning and, in an interview with BBC Sport last October, she talked about the reasons behind her move Down Under.
Eboni Beckford-ChambersEmbed from Getty Images
If Mentor is the defensive general in the England team, then Beckford-Chambers is her trusty lieutenant. She is one of the most experienced members of the squad and Gold Coast 2018 was her third Commonwealth Games.
The goal defence started her career at Team Bath in 2006 and stayed there for six years before signing for ANZ Championships club West Coast Fever in 2012. She was most voted Most Valuable Player at the Perth-based club in 2013 and 2014.
Beckford-Chambers, 30, then spent a year at Adelaide Thunderbirds before returning to Team Bath in 2016. She is also a professional lawyer.
Beth CobdenEmbed from Getty Images
The talented wing defence, who can also play at centre and wing attack, is one of the newest additions to the team. She was awarded a full-time England contract in June 2016.
Cobden, 25, represented Great Britain in the first ever FISU World University Netball Championships in South Africa in 2012. She started her career at Manchester Thunder and now plays for Loughborough Lightning.
Serena GuthrieEmbed from Getty Images
A centre needs to be the heartbeat of any netball team, and anyone who has watched Guthrie in action knows she is one of the best around. Her energy and ability to pick and execute the right pass at the right time was invaluable to England at Gold Coast 2018.
Guthrie has already made over 50 appearances for the Roses. She spent seven years at Team Bath before electing to move to Australasia in 2015. She played for Northern Mystics in Auckland for two years and then moved to current club Giants Netball (based in Sydney) in 2017.
Chelsea PitmanEmbed from Getty Images
In January 2017, the Sydney-born wing attack bravely defected from Australia to England, who she qualifies for through her Dorset-born father. Pitman was going through a difficult time in her personal life, as referenced in this Instagram post from July 2017, but she told The Guardian in January 2018 that she believes the decisions she made and the troubles she experienced have helped her become “a better, stronger person”.
Pitman, 29, has played for six different club sides including Manchester Thunder and West Coast Fever and made 18 appearances for Australia before switching allegiance to the Roses.
“I have such a sense of pride because the group has accepted me,” Pitman told The Guardian in January. “When we come up against Australia I think, as much as anything, I want to beat them even more than anyone else. I haven’t succeeded in doing that since I’ve been here, but hopefully we do it when it counts and get a Commonwealth Games or World Cup medal around our necks.” Mission accomplished!
Housby achieved the dream of every youngster playing a team sport by scoring the winner for her country on the biggest stage. “The best day of my life,” wrote the shooter on Instagram. “Winning goal in a Commonwealth Games Final. Better than I ever dreamed. Love this team and I love this game.”
At 23, Housby is the youngest member of the England squad but she is already vital to their success. Shooters have to be the calmest players on the pitch and the Cumbrian-born star excels in this regard. She keeps her cool in the most pressurised situations, as her gold-medal winning goal aptly demonstrated.
Despite her youth, Housby has already appeared over 40 times for her country. She began her career at Manchester Thunder and played there for four years before moving to current club New South Wales Swifts in 2017. Her superb shooting guided the Thunder to Netball Superleague glory in 2014.
Jo HartenEmbed from Getty Images
In 2016, the Harlow-born shooter told Women’s Health that she practices 1000 shots a week. When combined with an already-hectic training schedule, that preparation ensured she was ready when her big moment came at Gold Cost 2018, as she scored the goal that sealed England’s place in the final.
Harten, 29, has now represented her country at three Commonwealth Games and is one of the most experienced Roses players with over 80 caps to her name. She signed her first professional contract with Canterbury Tactix in New Zealand in 2011 and played there for two seasons before joining Waikato Magic. After three seasons at the Hamilton-based club, she moved to current team Giants Netball.
The Coach – Tracey Neville
Neville, who played 81 times for England, took over the reins of the national team in 2015 and has been plotting their route to the top ever since. She has introduced younger players such as Cobden to the team and has repeatedly championed the value of sticking to a process in the belief that it will eventually yield success.
“What a moment. It’s a dream as a player and I’m living it as a coach through the eyes of these players,” Neville told Manchester Evening News. “We knew we had to put out the most cunning performance of our lives and we said ‘we’ve got nothing to lose’.”