Jade Clarke used to think winning gold with England was the be-all and end-all.
It took her 16 years in the Roses dress to achieve her lifetime goal of winning a Commonwealth Games title when England beat Australia in 2018, yet the feeling was different to the one she had expected – she wasn’t ready to throw in the towel.
Manchester-born Clarke may be approaching the twilight years of her stellar netball career, but Clarke went straight on to win World Cup bronze with England this summer and the 36-year old is showing no signs of slowing down.
Unlike the majority of the bronze-medal winning team, Clarke has thrown herself straight back into the action and will lead an inexperienced squad to South Africa this weekend for their first assignment under new coach Jess Thirlby.
The most capped player in England Roses’ history (169), Clarke knows she is not the future, but she doesn't want to call it quits just yet.
“I always said to myself that if I ever got a gold medal, I’d just retire, but after we won at the Commonwealth Games I still wanted to carry on,” said Clarke.
“I realised it wasn’t all about winning, but it’s about the journey you’re on with the England girls.
“It’s about the whole experience: playing netball, being with a team who are like your family and most importantly being part of something bigger than yourself.
”I love it, I love everything about it. There’s no feeling like putting on that red dress.
“I’m still playing and feeling good at 36 so I feel very lucky and I’m determined to make the most of this opportunity.
“I’m still good enough so I’m just going to keep going until they tell me not to.”
With all the buzz surrounding this year’s Vitality Netball World Cup in Liverpool it’s difficult to blame Clarke for wanting to prolong her 17-year stint with the Roses.
A survey conducted by YouGov revealed that since July, more than 160,000 Brits started playing netball - or more netball - as a result of the competition – a trend Clarke is determined to see continue in the new Thirlby era.
“I had a bit of a break after the World Cup, but it was really exciting to come back to a fresh new squad,” she added.
“We had such an amazing couple of years under Tracey raising the profile of netball in this country and now we want to take that momentum and really build on it.
“We’ve just had the World Cup on home soil and now have the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham to build up to in 2022.
“Going to Cape Town and trying to beat South Africa at their home will be good practice for us ahead of the next edition of the World Cup in 2023.
“Even though we beat them twice at the World Cup, they really put a stake in the ground – they wanted the world to take them seriously as gold medal competitors.
“Unlike us, they’ve retained a lot of their summer players for this series so will no doubt be very settled, but it will be up to us to rise to the challenge.”