Natalie celebrates a second Grand Final win with Wasps

Natalie Haythornthwaite
Natalie Haythornthwaite
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Natalie Haythornthwaite admits she had to pinch herself, as her netball fairytale continued at the weekend.

On Saturday, the 25-year-old helped Wasps claim their second-successive Vitality Superleague title, beating Loughborough Lightning in a nail-biting Grand Final at the Copper BoxArena in London.

That came on the back of England’s stunning Commonwealth Games campaign, as they beat the world number one Australia on the Gold Coast in as dramatic a finale you will see.

Tracey Neville’s side have subsequently climbed to second in the world rankings for the first time, going above New Zealand.

Life is good on and off the court for Natalie – who began training with Ribble Valley Netball Club when she was just eight.

And she beamed: “Off court, we’ve bought a house together (with boyfriend Josh) and it’s been an incredible year – 2017 was, Superleague, Fast5 World Series, Netball Europe, the Malawi series – and this year, with the Commonwealths and Superleague again. You think ‘can this keep happening?’

“But you get your rewards for hard work.

“I was saying how lucky I felt, and people were saying to me that it’s not luck, it’s hard work. We’ve worked so hard for all this.

“It feels like a story...”

Remarkably, Wasps beat Loughborough 55-51 – the same scoreline as last year, when Lightning were again beaten finalists.

And, after crying tears of joy after her first Superleague triumph last year, the Barrowford ace was able to savour the moment more this time around: “We didn’t realise until after that it was the same score as last year, it’s crazy.

“It feels completely different to last year – it was my first win after eight years of playing Superleague, and I didn’t stop crying. This time, I tried to enjoy it more.

“The game was so nerve-wracking, it was a really nervy game for both sides.

“Both teams wanted to win so badly, and we managed to do it again.

“It didn’t feel like we had won until a couple of hours later when it started to sink in, after the nerves stopped, and we all thought ‘it’s happened!”

Wasps won the Superleague title last year in the franchise’s first season.

Winning a title is one thing, but retaining it is something else altogether, and she added: “It’s hard to do it back to back.

“You have a target on your back after winning last year – everyone wants to beat you.”

While Gareth Southgate’s squad will hopefully be preparing for a first World Cup Final in 52 years as you read this, Natalie’ big target is the World Cup – which is also coming home, with Liverpool the host city.

She said: “The next big thing is the World Cup in Liverpool next year.

“I just want to work hard and be selected for that.

“The hard work starts now – you have to make sure you’re in all the squads moving forward and stay fit.”