Barrowford’s Natalie Haythornthwaite has her sights set on a medal as England prepare for the World Youth Netball Championships in Glasgow, which start later this month.
The 20-year-old former Fisher-More student is part of Colette Thomson’s Under 21 squad for the games, where England will take on the Republic of Ireland a fortnight today, before facing Singapore the following day, Papua New Guinea on the 25th, Barbados on the 27th.
The top two teams in each pool then progress to the quarter-finals, which is the first goal for Natalie and the squad.
She has been busy in training camps in preparation, having warmed up for the championships - in more ways than one - with a tour of Jamaica last month, where they beat Trinidad and Tobago twice, sandwiching three defeats against the hosts’ Sunshine Girls - though the margin of defeat was narrowed from 27 in the first meeting, to nine in the last.
Natalie said: “We’re all really excited now and ready to go.
“We definitely want to win a medal, and it would be great to get the gold. That’s in our sights, although it will be really hard.
“We’re hoping to top our pool first, and then take it from there, game by game.
“But we’re confident we can do well. We respect each team, but going off the last tournament, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica and England were the top four, and hopefully we can play to our strengths and go as far as possible.”
It is the culmination of four years’ preparation, and all that remains is a bit of fine-tuning before the action starts: “Jamaica was great, and we’ve had two more training camps since.
“We’ve been focussing on areas we need to improve in, with video sessions, just putting the finishing touches to it all, and we just can’t wait to get started now.”
At least the conditions in Glasgow won’t be as testing as Jamaica: “It was hard to play in. I was there two years ago, but the heat was horrendous - at half-time we had to change our dresses, and the physios were giving us iced towels and drinks constantly.
“But you have to deal with it, and we got a near-30-point gap down to nine in the space of 10 days, which was good.”
After the tournament, Natalie will have three weeks’ down time before starting at the England Netball Intensive Netball Training Centre in Manchester.