Updated: Tuesday, 22nd October 2019 @ 3:31pm

'Men & Dads said they were crying': Manchester netball golden girl Jade Clarke amazed by Commonwealth Games reaction

'Men & Dads said they were crying': Manchester netball golden girl Jade Clarke amazed by Commonwealth Games reaction

| By Jimmy Booker

England’s historic Commonwealth gold in the netball on the Gold Coast was a long time coming – and for no one more so than Jade Clarke.

The match, which ended in a huge Roses pile-on after Helen Housby showed ice-cool nerves to sink the winning shot in the last second of the 52-51 contest against hosts Australia on April 15, was Clarke’s 150th in England red.

It was the 34-year-old’s fourth Commonwealth championships, having previously claimed bronze at Melbourne 2006 and Delhi 2010 before a fourth-place finish in Glasgow.

But while she concedes she may not feature in the next Commonwealths in Birmingham in 2022, with the Ricoh Arena Coventry hosting the netball, Manchester-born Clarke, who can play at centre or wing attack, is adamant retirement for club or country is not on her mind.

“I think I’ll be sat in the crowd cheering on the England team at the next Commonwealth Games but I can’t wait,” said the Wasps player.

“With England I’m going to take it a year at a time – my goal was always to make World Cup 2019 – it’s in Liverpool, half an hour away from my house – I would love to be playing in that.

“Competition is fierce, it’s going to be even fiercer now with more people stepping up and wanting to be part of that team which won gold. That a huge goal for me.

“Club-wise I’m going to keep playing until my legs don’t go any more – I love playing for Wasps, it’s been a brilliant year and I’ll just keep going.”

Team England Official Partner npower organised for Clarke and teammate Natalie Haythornthwaite to surprise local schoolgirls at their club’s home court at the Ricoh Arena on Friday, ahead of their Netball Superleague match against Manchester Thunder.

Sporting their gold medals from Australia they chatted to the youngsters, took questions from students and joined in with a couple of drills after being shown footage of the famous moment in Brisbane which won them the Commonwealth crown.

Clarke admitted that she has not come down from that high and the team have been riding the crest of a wave ever since.

But the Partington veteran is now hoping the success can push netball even more into the public consciousness with increased television exposure and the possibility of a professional league in this country.

“You think of what having a gold medal feels like and it’s so much better than you even think it’s going to be,” added Clarke.

“Lots of men and dads have stopped me and said how they were crying while watching it with their kids, it’s been brilliant and I love that everyone is talking about netball.

“The final was a great experience – it was probably actually the worst we’ve ever prepared for a game. We had the semi-final the day before. We got back late and were too excited to sleep.

“Before the game, Ama [Agbeze, captain] gave us all a letter on a sheet of paper with a number, we all had to put them in order on the wall and once it was it said, ‘If not now, when? If not you, who?’

“That struck a chord with me – we could have gone into that final being happy with a silver medal whatever happens, but then you start thinking, ‘we’re here to win and we can do something amazing. Why can’t it be us?’ This was our time.

“Now it’s time to get netball in the media, get it on TV – there’s a market for it, everyone absolutely loved that game.

“I want to see a professional league in England and every game on TV. I want to see it go from strength to strength because participation is there, people are playing and people want to see it.”

Team England Official Partner npower organised for gold medallists Natalie Haythornthwaite and Jade Clarke to surprise local students from Rugby School and King Henry VIII Preparatory School with a netball session at the Ricoh Arena, Coventry, where they also thanked them for the power of their support during the 2018 Commonwealth Games.