England defender Geva Mentor believes the fact that the Vitality Netball World Cup 2023 will take place on African soil for the first time will have a great impact on the growth of the sport on the continent.
Speaking ahead of what will be a remarkable sixth Netball World Cup appearance for the England icon, Mentor said: “The African nations are on the rise, we’re seeing the impact they’re having in the top domestic leagues and in turn the performances they’re putting out against other nations.
“To be able to showcase all the best netballers in the world on African soil is another opportunity to keep growing the sport and we all know the Africans will create a vibrant, loud and entertaining event.”
The energy levels are certainly expected to be raised when the Vitality Netball World Cup 2023 takes place at the Cape Town International Convention Centre from 28 July to 6 August.
The tournament will bring with it a bittersweet moment for Mentor as she takes to the court for one final tournament before retiring from the sport. The 38-year-old recently confirmed her plans to call time on her career at the end of the tournament.
“It still doesn’t feel real, or perhaps like the right decision, but it’s something I felt I had to do,” she explained. “A big part of who I am is often putting others before me and, compelled by the fact that I want to leave a place better off, it was time I step aside and allow others to have the opportunity to develop and gain experience so the Roses can go on to carve a strong legacy.”
Mentor started playing netball as a teenager. Her mother hails from Bournemouth, where she grew up, and her father from St Lucia in the Caribbean. While her first love as a child was trampolining – representing the UK as a junior – she soon fell in love with the camaraderie in netball. Clearly a natural, Mentor joined her first team at the age of 13 and by 14 she’d been called up to the England Under 17s, then earning her first senior cap at the age of 16.
In a career that’s spanned more than two decades, she’s solidified her place as one of netball’s all-time greats, claiming Commonwealth Games gold with England at Gold Coast 2018 and three Netball World Cup bronze medals, while also excelling in Australia’s Suncorp Super Netball.
Looking back on her career, it’s the opportunities that it has provided for which she is most grateful and what she loves about the sport.
“It would be easy to say the camaraderie, the successes, the people and while, yes, that’s right up there, when I think about it more deeply, it’s the opportunity.
“To ride the highs and lows with an exceptional number of humans, the opportunity to travel and experience different cultures, the opportunity to dedicate my time to making me the best version of myself and to empower those around me to find theirs.
“So, I guess in a nutshell it’s the opportunity.”
As for her predictions for the Vitality Netball World Cup 2023, where England will be eager to finally make the breakthrough and challenge for a first title, Mentor reckoned: “Anything is possible, right? All the Netball World Cups I’ve been part of I believe the standard of competition is getting tougher, the physicality more intense and the calibre of skill on display awe-inspiring.
“So, it’ll come down to the tactics and who not only shows up on the day, but who is consistent and improves with every outing.”
Asked what the secret has been to her longevity, Mentor simply says: “No secret, just take each day and moment as it comes and find the fun in all you do.”
England begin their Vitality Netball World Cup 2023 campaign against Barbados on 28th July with their two other initial group games against Malawi on 29th July and neighbours Scotland on 30th July.
Details on tickets and travel packages and more information are all available on the official tournament website (www.nwc2023.org.za) with a range of tickets and packages still available.
Image courtesy World Netball