Netball Quad Series: Geva Mentor still wants to make history with the Roses

Geva Mentor made her England debut against New Zealand aged 16

Geva Mentor says she “still wants to break history” with England by retaining Commonwealth gold in Birmingham this summer.

The Roses will be aiming to defend their first major title – earned by beating Australia 52-51 on the Gold Coast in 2018.

Mentor, who has represented her country for more than 20 years, jokes that she is one of the “old girls” in the squad – but is serious about success.

“I know that I am coming towards the latter part of my career but I still want to go out there and win,” the goalkeeper told BBC Sport.

“I still want to break history and make those moments with an amazing group of people.”

The 37-year-old, who has 149 England caps, is back in England for the first time since they finished third at the 2019 World Cup, and is preparing for a Netball Quad Series against three of the world’s top ranked sides – South Africa, New Zealand and Australia.

Mentor says it is important for her to leave a legacy for England netball before retiring from the sport she calls “a way of life” and a career spanning three Commonwealth Games and five World Cups.

“I want to make sure that I don’t just drop and run – and that I leave it in a really good place and hand it over to the future generations coming through,” she said.

England’s squad for the series has a mixture of youth and experience – and head coach Jess Thirlby is keen for the older heads to share their knowledge with those coming through.

Mentor added: “It’s important to change it up – bringing fresh faces and new excited young people into the programme gives you that energy and perspective to not take things for granted because you don’t know when that’s going to change or end.

“It’s a real happy family and exciting place to be. The fact that I can keep adding to that and developing that, I know I’m leaving netball in England in a good place.”

For now, Mentor is seeking successive Commonwealth gold medals as well as “a couple more Premierships” for her domestic side, Collingwood Magpies in Australia, who she captained to sixth last season.

“I want to get stronger in the gym, I want to be able to run faster on the track, I want to be able to jump higher on the court,” said Mentor. “I’m not stuck on my laurels.”

She joked that her longevity can be put down to putting cordial in her water – “there’s always some juice nearby so I always joke that that helps me” – and challenging herself to new activities such as boxing or Pilates.

Mentor, though, is planning for her retirement and said that “the light is easier to see at the end of the tunnel” after completing a teaching degree, which she hopes to utilise once her netball career winds down.

“I admire my peers who have had kids and come back and played. I haven’t gone down that route but hopefully I can start a family post-netball,” she said.

“For me personally that’s another chapter of my life so it would probably be best that I lay to rest my wonderful netball career and then move into the family realm. I would love to see out another Commonwealth Games [this summer] and World Cup [in South Africa in 2023] and then we’ll see after that.”

‘We want to go out there and win’

England’s Netball Quad Series campaign starts against South Africa on Saturday at the Copperbox as they gear up to defend their Commonwealth title in Birmingham in August.

The Roses are arguably the in-form team, having defeated world champions New Zealand in a three-match series in Christchurch in September and sealed victory at home to Jamaica.

Mentor, who will make her 150th cap at the series, says it’s a sign of how far things have come in her career at the top that “it’s not just always about the two powerhouses in New Zealand and Australia any more”.

“In my early years involved in the English set-up, you always put those two sides on a pedestal because you didn’t know what you were going into,” Mentor said. “You turned up to games, not knowing that you were going to lose, but knowing it was going to be very tough.”

With more English players competing in Australia and New Zealand’s domestic leagues, Mentor recognises the advantages of having such insight into the two best teams in the world.

“We know what these girls do day in day out, we’ve played against them many times – they’re going to be just as nervous and anxious as us coming into these games,” she said. “We are all fit and talented women and it will come down to who has that mental edge.

“We don’t shy away from what we want to achieve and at the end of the day we want to go out there and win. Not just for the 12 that are there but we are representing the whole programme and the future beyond that.”

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