Absence has certainly made the heart grow fonder for Helen Housby after taking a break from England’s Vitality Roses following the conclusion of the 2019 Netball World Cup.
A hectic schedule in the four years leading up to the home World Cup meant Housby was one of several players who took time off from international duty in the aftermath.
But in December, the 26-year-old was included in the Roses squad, which was due to play the Jamaica Sunshine Girls in the Vitality Netball Legend Series, for the first time in over a year.
However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the opposition has changed as the England side will face a host of international players in the Vitality Netball Superleague ‘All Stars’ side.
The first match of the three-game series takes place on Wednesday (January 20) and Housby was thrilled to return to the ‘special culture’ of the England camp.
“It’s been great,” Housby said. “It’s been since the World Cup actually since I’ve been with the England girls which definitely feels like a long time, but I feel like it’s always nice to get back to the England team.
“We’ve got this special culture, and just the camaraderie and the bond with people. A lot of us have played together for a lot of years.
“It’s nice to be back in England and back in the England camp albeit under different circumstances but still nice to be here.
“I’ve really enjoyed getting stuck in and the intensity is really high. I think we’re very wary that our time together is pretty limited as an England squad so having this little block of time to train to together is actually really important heading towards the next big competitions over the next couple of years.
“I think we’re just making the most of it and training hard and I feel good. We’ll be playing the series with all our best intentions to put the best foot forward.”
Housby splits her time between Australia and the UK, playing for the New South Wales Swifts in Suncorp Super Netball.
After spending most of the last year on the other side of the world, the Commonwealth Games gold medallist has been back in England since November and has been training over the Christmas break.
Since her last appearance for the Roses, there’s been a change in management with Jess Thirlby taking over from Tracey Neville and a host of young stars have emerged.
But the England shooter has enjoyed forming new relationships within the team and believes they have plenty of strength in depth.
“There’s a couple of girls I’ve got past relationships with on the court with like Eleanor Cardwell but there was a couple of girls who I haven’t played with that much,” the Carlisle native explained.
“It’s nice to get back out on court and just learn how they play and they’re girls that are going to be the future of England Netball, so it’s very important to solidify those partnerships.
“Even in the centre court, people like Laura Malcom playing in that front line, it’s something I haven’t really been exposed to that much.
“It’s just really exciting to see these new combinations come through and know that we don’t just have a strong seven, we’ve got full squad who can now go on court and do a job for the team.
“We’ve played a lot of matchplay that has been great and getting to grips with each other, but I’m just excited to put it out on court and see what we’ve really got.”
The ‘All Stars’ side will include the likes of Malawian and Manchester Thunder player Joyce Mvula, Liana Leota who plays for New Zealand and Severn Stars, as well as Loughborough Lightning and Uganda’s Mary Cholhok.
Housby is aware the of dangers that the side possesses and knows England will have to be at the top of their game to win.
She added: “It’s huge and we definitely can’t underestimate this team, they’ve got international players across the board.
“They’re definitely a very strong side and they are coming together in quite exceptional circumstances.
“We’ve got to be on our A game and really put our best foot forward because they’ll catch us lacking if we’re not concentrating.”