Netballer Helen Housby may have just booked her place at the Commonwealth Games this summer after a break-through year with Manchester Thunder that ended with the goal of a lifetime and her first call-up to the England squad.
The goal came with just five seconds of the 2014 Superleague final left to play. Facing the previously undefeated Surrey Storm, the 19-year-old goal shooter netted a stunning long-ranger to win the national title by a single point.
“I would never have shot that winning goal under that pressure,” admitted her coach Tracey Neville, who has described Helen’s performances over the season as a “revelation”.
"I can't believe it, it was the longest five seconds of my life,” Helen said later in an interview with BBC Sport. “I was waiting for [teammate] Sara [Bayman] to pass it to me and I was like 'I'm ready, I will just do it'.”
"We practise long shots in training but you never know what will happen in that situation,” she added.
It was the perfect end to the season for Helen who was named as the Superleague champions’ stand-out player this year while still one of their youngest. Having also got the attention of the England selectors, Helen is now making her senior England debut on a tour of Australia as the team gears up for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games later this summer.
Helen Housby with Manchester Thunder teammates after winning the 2014 Superleague title
The Games seem to have arrived at just the right time for the student from Cumbria, where third-ranked England should be challenging the world’s top two, Australia and New Zealand, for a place on the podium. It could be a huge opportunity for Helen but ever cool, she is not letting anything get ahead of her.
"I'm hopeful I will get in the Commonwealth team but I am not trying to rest everything on it,” she explains.
"It would be great if I could get in the squad but I want to focus on the Australian tour first and put in some good performances."
Netball is one of six sports that will be on show at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre Precinct at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games between July 23 and August 3, with the first match being played on July 24. Helen will find out if she will be there when England Netball announces its squad on July 1.
Now studying in Manchester, a typical week for Helen includes four to five days’ training and as many as three matches: one on Wednesday, another on Sunday and occasional games on Saturdays. All on top of university work. It is a gruelling schedule that takes a huge amount of commitment and dedication.
To help her with the financial pressure, this year Helen has received a £1,000 award from SportsAid.
“My SportsAid Award helps with travelling and petrol costs, buying netball trainers, kit, netballs, braces, socks, sports drinks, strapping, supplements, food for competitions plus accommodation and training costs,” Helen explains.
- Top: Back Page Images.
- Bottom: Tom Nokes.