Natalie Haythornthwaite made a big impression on head coach Tracey Neville as she helped England’s netballers off to the perfect start to the Commonwealth Games with a thumping win over Scotland.
Haythornthwaite, from Barrowford, came off the bench at half-time in a 74-28 win over the Scots, notching 17 assists as England laid down a marker in Pool B.
The 25-year-old first broke into England’s training programme in 2016 and was part of the Wasps side that won the Netball Superleague last season.
She also featured in all three clashes with England’s next opponents Malawi in a series last November, and as she fights to play a major role on the Gold Coast, Neville was clearly impressed with Haythornthwaite’s contribution.
She said: “I think Haythornthwaite in our wing attack position came on really clinically and really started to push the defence.
“I think the defence in the second half pleased me the most. They were really tight on and started to make a difference. I think in the shooting circle, obviously Jo (Harten) gives that stalwart performance.
“And they do play a bit of a Kiwi style so that’s obviously good practice for us leading into the latter part of the week.
“First game, irrespective of who it is, it’s always a real nervy performance for these girls. As well, being a home nation, that puts a little bit of pressure on them. We managed to get every athlete on court, get a little bit of confidence in the team and that’s what we wanted to achieve.”
The only minor blemish for England was an injury to centre Serena Guthrie early in the first half, but Neville was confident she would shake off that ankle issue before Thursday’s crucial clash with Malawi.
She added: “Yes, I’m not sure she fancied it. I think she decided to have a bit of a rest. I think she’ll be fine. I’m not sure. I think she rolled it or stood on someone’s foot.
“The physio decided; it wasn’t a game we needed to put her on. We kept her in the changing room because if she’s on the bench you can’t get it elevated and stuff. It’s about the long-term aspect of the Commonwealth Games, not just today. She watched it on television.”
England play Malawi on Thursday in their second Pool B clash before further games against Uganda, Wales and New Zealand completing the group stages.
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