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England fans didn’t need to be asked twice to catch the world champions take on their team in Bath on Sunday, where the first of three matches was sold out, certainly a rarity for the sport outside clashes between Australia and New Zealand.

Tickets are also selling well for their matches at Wembley Arena and Birmingham’s National Indoor Arena on Saturday. It’s impressive for a series which means little more than pride in the big scheme of things.

In reality, it’s a valuable  hit-out for two sides preparing for the next major meeting of netball’s best – the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow starting July 2014.

While the Aussies have it over New Zealand in world championships, with 10 wins to the Kiwis’ four since the first in 1963, they are two-a-piece in the four Commonwealth Games.

With netball not being an Olympic sport, this is the big one.“July seems like a long time away but our preparations are well underway,” Von Bertouch says.

“That’s one of the great things about this tour. It gives us a chance to take a trip over this side of the world, and it’s especially good experience for the younger players to play top opposition.

That depth of experience is so important in big tournaments.”An Australia v New Zealand final will again be expected, but Von Bertouch’s memory doesn’t allow her to get cocky.

“I remember well the 2010 Commonwealth Games when we played England in the semis to get into the final,” she recounts.

“And into the last quarter we were down. We’ve lost in the last couple of years, too. We don’t take them lightly at all, and everyone’s improving. We’ve got to be on the ball.”


Netball fever growing: UK ready for next step

Aussie netball captain Natalie Von Bertouch says the standard of English netball has improved since more Brits have moved to play Down Under.

But top England player Eboni Beckford-Chambers, 24, says they need to be paid to play in the UK if they’ve any chance to match the top teams.

Beckford-Chambers plays for West Coast Fever in the ANZ Championship, where most players are paid. Her alternative is UK netball’s pinnacle Superleague, which has eight teams of unpaid talent in England and Wales.

“Some of the legends of the game in Australia are professional and rightly so,” the defender told the BBC, who will be covering the three-match series on Radio 5.

“Players like me aspire to be like that.”Participation in netball has increased 30 per cent in the three years since Australia last visited the UK and has received a boost in funding from Sport England.

International Netball: England v Australia,  Wednesday, January 23. 
Tickets £27.25  Wembley Arena, HA9 0AA 
Station |  Wembley Park,  Wembley Stadium


Photos: Getty


Interview: Australia's netball Diamonds expect a tough showdown with England this week, says team captain Natalie Von Bertouch
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