Captain fantastic – Natalie Haythornthwaite to lead the England Roses in series in South Africa

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - JULY 17: Natalie Haythornthwaite of England gestures during the preliminaries stage two schedule match between Trinidad & Tobago and England at M&S Bank Arena on July 17, 2019 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - JULY 17: Natalie Haythornthwaite of England gestures during the preliminaries stage two schedule match between Trinidad & Tobago and England at M&S Bank Arena on July 17, 2019 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)

Barrowford’s Natalie Haythornthwaite was bursting with pride after being named as the Vitality Roses’ captain for England’s three-Test series against South Africa.

The 26-year-old has been handed the armband by head coach Jess Thirlby, as the Roses formally mark the start of a new four-year international cycle, after this summer’s World Cup in Liverpool.

The first Test is on Friday, live at 4-30 p.m. on Sky Sports Mix, Arena and Main Event, with Saturday’s game at 12-30 p.m. (Sky Sports Mix and Arena).

Sunday’s final Test starts at 10-30 a.m. on Sky Sports Mix.

All three Tests will be played in Cape Town, the venue for the the location for the 2023 World Cup.

Natalie said: “It’s a huge honour to be named captain of the Vitality Roses for the upcoming series with South Africa.

“I am really excited about representing my country again for the first time since the Vitality Netball World Cup in July.

“I can’t wait to stand on court next to the other amazing athletes that make up this squad, and I hope that the country will be watching and supporting us throughout it.”

Having made her international debut four years ago against Trinidad and Tobago, she has since earned 43 international caps, and was part of the team which win gold at the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast in Australia last year, before helping win bronze at the recemt World Cup.

Natalie also won back to back Vitality Netball Superleague titles with Wasps Netball, before joining New South Wales Swifts in Australia last year, where she has also enjoyed a Suncorp Super Netball title in September.

Thirlby said of her new skipper: “Natalie is well-liked and a respected member of the team.

“She’s approachable, positive and knows what it takes to win.

“I believe she has developed more of the grit, robustness and resilience needed to lead on some of the biggest stages and there is more depth to her leadership now.

“She represents the values and behaviours we care about most as a Roses team and leads by example out on court.

“It’s important we have a captain going into this test series that has the experience and exposure that Natalie has, and that there are others around her that can support her as captain,.

“We are continuing to invest in all of our players and really embracing the mix of leaders we have, and I think now’s a great time to give Natalie the responsibility and privilege of leading her team as captain.”

Former England player, and former Director of Netball at Wasps, Tamsin Greenway added: “I couldn’t think of a better person to lead this group right now.

“An opportunity for Natalie to shine on and off the court.”

England’s 14-player squad for the South Africa Series is: George Fisher, Natalie Panagarry, Eleanor Cardwell, Stacey Francis, Kadeen Corbin, Kate Shimmin, Sophie Drakeford-Lewis, Fran Williams, Natalie Haythornthwaite (C), Razia Quashie, Jade Clarke, Gabriella Marshall, Laura Malcolm (VC), Summer Artman.

l Natalie has also been inducted into the Leeds University Sporting Hall of Fame at the Sports Scholars Award Evening held earlier this month.

Natalie graduated in 2014 with a degree in Linguistics and Phonetics, and while studying at Leeds, was vice-captain of the city’s Superleague side Yorkshire Jets, with who she was named Superleague Player of the Year in 2015.