Quick learner Hansell keen to make her mark with England at Indoor Netball World Cup
A school games organiser is aiming to teach England's rivals a serious lesson at the Indoor World Cup.
Sophie Hansell, 32, from Narborough is currently in Australia competing in the biggest competition for the growing adaptation of netball that she only tried for the first time less than two years ago. The quick-learner's rise to prominence in the world of 'Nets' has already seen her compete in one World Cup and now she's keen to help lead her country to glory in the tournament Down Under.
The member of the South Norfolk SSP (School Sports Partnership), based at Framingham Earl High, said: 'I saw indoor netball being advertised on Twitter (in late 2013) and a couple of people I played with growing up told me to give it a go and I thought 'I've got nothing to lose.'
'So I went along to the trials in London (January 2014) and I was fortunate enough to get into the squad. It was a big opportunity and a great occasion to be part of. To play against the best players in the world was such a great experience. To go out there for the first time was something I and a lot of the players learned from and we hope to be in with a shout of a medal this time.'
Hansell's first experience of competing at a global showcase came in South Africa. The mixed team she was involved in reached the semi-finals of the sixes and sevens tournaments losing on each occasion to the hosts.
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She has now been selected again for the over-30s mixed squad as one of 10 players, five men and women, that will go for gold against the Aussies, New Zealand and South Africa.
'For me personally at this point in my traditional career I'm at the peak,' said the Norwich-based Thoroughbreds player who competes with her club in Premier League Two across the country.
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'I'm almost at the end and I'm as high as I'm ever going to go. Indoor netball is more exciting, interesting and is always challenging me. You mark whoever and you have to think very carefully about how you construct your actions to give yourself the best opportunity of scoring and defending against a 6ft man. It's very, very difficult but I enjoy that.'
The self-funded trip – which saw the international train every other weekend for the last six months in London or Bristol – cost each England player £3,000. Four squads are out in Brisbane – where the sport is far bigger than it is in the UK.
The action has become popular with it being played inside high tension netted courts so the ball never goes out of play. The standard sevens (number of players) netball is slightly less popular than the sixes version which sees two defenders, two link players – the position where Norfolk's participant stars – and two attackers take to the small-sided court.
New Zealand are seen as favourites for the sizes tournament while the standalone sevens version, which the 32-year-old is also competing in, is often dominated by the Aussies.
Hansell, her country's vice captain, started playing netball at the age of 10 and suffered a defeat in every single game of her first season. That didn't put her off though as she formed a fierce reputation for herself prior to moving to the area.
She played county standard in Birmingham and was part of the Welsh squad from 2006-08.