Thirlby: We don’t have a weakness or weak players

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All eyes turn to Birmingham 2022 for the Vitality Roses and Jess Thirlby admits the time has come for tough calls as they wrapped up a 3-0 whitewash in the Vitality Netball Legends Series.

Thirlby handed Sophie Drakeford-Lewis a first start of the series and breakout goalkeeper Razia Quashie extended court time as the Roses beat the Vitality Superleague All Stars 55-43.

But with Gold Coast gold medal-winning heroes like Jo Harten, Kadeen Corbin and Geva Mentor to return, heads will roll with a squad to be slimmed down to 12 for the home Games.

“I’ve not arrived at my 12 yet, but I’m in a great position where I know a number of people are doing what they need to do for us to get near to retaining that gold next year,” she said.

“We don’t have a weakness or weak players, so it’ll be a case of who grows before then.

“The focus will continue to narrow but I don’t want to arrive in Birmingham with a seven. I want as close to a world-winning 12 as I can.

“In reaching for that, I hope we can get close to that standard and we can turn to a bench and be confident they can maintain our performance on the biggest stages.

“This series has been more about performance than development despite the changes in opposition. Things will become more cut-throat.”

The Roses have now played six times since the start of COVID-19 – more than most international rivals – although are now faced with an empty schedule amid travel uncertainty.

The head coach asked for a fast start from her side in the third of three matches against the Superleague All Stars and got it as they leapt into a 10-2 lead.

The Roses took their foot off the gas in the second period as the All Stars outscored them for the first and only of 12 quarters and Helen Housby replaced Eleanor Cardwell in the circle.

England burst clear of their makeshift opposition in the third quarter in each game and the pattern was repeated as they turned 24-20 at the half into 42-31 at the end of the third.

Quashie and co-captain Serena Guthrie’s tenacious defence helped them dominate the ball while Laura Malcolm more than matched Nat Haythornthwaite’s intensity at wing attack.

They wrapped up victory by 12 points – the least emphatic winning margin of the series and its lowest scoring game.

Thirlby will now monitor her players’ progress in the domestic Vitality Superleague and in Suncorp Super Netball Down Under with the hope for further Tests later in 2021.

England start the defence of their Commonwealth title in 189 days’ time at the NEC Arena.

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