Christmas may be on the horizon, but the Wales senior long squad have been very busy over the last few weeks in their first block of training under returning head coach, Julie Hoornweg. 

Returning from Australia to lead Wales on a march back up the INF rankings, Hoornweg has been keeping her diverse squad on its toes, both on and off court. Netball Europe 2019 might be another ten months away, but there is no place for complacency in this Welsh squad who have been training, in their brand-new O’Neills kit, since late November.

Kyra Jones, who made it 50 Wales caps earlier this year is excited about the make-up of the new long squad. She said:

“To be a part of the 2018/2019 long squad is not only a privilege but also a great opportunity to start building for the next four years.  This years long squad has some new faces who haven’t been in the set up before and there’s some great experience with youth who have come through the Welsh Netball set-up.

“It is great to be able to work with the new management team and the intensity in training has lifted immensely. The culture within this group is developing in a very positive way and its exciting to see!”

Sophie Morgan, who has played in franchises from across the UK in the Vitality Netball Superleague also echoed Kyra’s sentiments about the intensity of training. She said:

“As a squad and management team we have really stepped up the intensity over the last couple of weeks in training. Our focus has been attacking based, putting in to practice some key elements of the style of play that we want to show out on court. Players are putting one another under a lot of pressure out on court, which is resulting in players having to step up and get the job done.

She added: “The effort that all of the players have been putting in is something I’ve never before witnessed in a Welsh set-up and this particular group is extremely determined and focused. Our targets and expectations of each other are very high and exactly where they need to be for Wales to be able to push on and I am excited to see where this team can go!”

Sara Bell, part of the Netball World Cup squad who placed 7th in 2015 gave her thoughts about how Hoornweg has been getting the team to bond off the court:

“Alongside our on court work we have been involved in team building activities off court to promote team cohesion. From problem solving skills in small groups to challenges such as keeping balloons up off the floor (which is a lot harder than it sounds!) Julie has kept us on our toes and learning lots about each other.

“It has been such an exciting few weeks being a part of a new-look squad and creating our team values and behaviours to help promote the “Welsh Way” of netball!”

As this current block of training draws to a close, Hoornweg reflected on what the squad have achieved in their first few weeks together…

“Having established the squad’s goals, values and behaviours the group have been exceptional in their commitment and taken ownership of raising not only their own individual standard of athleticism and performance but collectively striving for excellence.

“One of the exciting achievements is the agreeance on the style of netball they need to be playing to achieve excellence at international level. “Y Ffordd Gymraeg” netball (“the Welsh Way”) now guides us in all our pursuits for excellence.”

Welsh Netball would like to congratulate the entire squad on their commitment and hard-work over the last few weeks and wish them and the management team a Nadolig Llawen a Blwyddyn Newydd Dda.

Wales senior management: Julie Hoornweg (Head Coach), Jenna Culley (Assistant Coach), Sara Hale (Assistant Coach) and Lavinia Baker (Team Manager). 

Wales senior long squad: Bethan Dyke, Betsy Creak, Brooke Collett, Cathy Bastian, Catrin Bowen, Chantelle Walker Jones, Chloe James, Christina Shaw, Clare Jones, Eleanor Roberts, Georgia Rowe, Kyra Jones, Leila Thomas, Lucy Howells, Lydia Hitchings, Megan Powell, Nia Jones, Rebecca Baker, Sara Bell, Sophie Morgan and Suzy Drane.