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Zara Everitt

Zara Everitt has the world of netball at her fingertips.

The London Pulse star helped her side clinch a maiden play-off berth with a 57-41 win over Sirens on Sunday, just weeks after being named to the Vitality Roses programme.

Pulse have lit up the Vitality Netball Superleague with their exciting cohort of youngsters, and Everitt believes they have benefitted from being underdogs this season.

“Last season, before we actually played, there was more expectation on us and we ended up underperforming,” she said.

“We’re quite a new team and there have been personnel changes from last season to this season.

“It’s about developing those relationships on court and we’ve got a core that’s been consistent for the last two years; that’s helped us grind through those close matches.

“When it’s been level in the third quarter, we have that trust and belief to grind and push on against any team in the league.”

Pulse’s impressive displays have been rewarded, with four players included in the Vitality Roses programme and four others named in the Futures programme.

“I think it does help that we’re a young team and we all have similar ambitions individually in terms of international selection,” added the defender.

“From the beginning when I joined Pulse, it was always [London Pulse CEO] Sam [Bird]’s ambition to have the next generation of Roses players coming through the club.

“It’s almost the whole team now and we’re hugely proud of each other for having made those steps up. It reflects the hard work we’re putting in at the club.”

Futures graduate Everitt’s promotion to England’s senior squad means she will be a full-time athlete and train alongside Commonwealth Games champions such as Helen Housby and Beth Cobden, and will no doubt serve as an inspiration to other Vitality Roses hopefuls.

“Futures is integrated with the full-time programme so pretty much all of our training, every time we came in, we were working with the senior players,” said Everitt.

“It has given me a really great opportunity to work with the girls I’m going to be working with this season, to see how the programme is in terms of its intensity and what the team is seeking to achieve.

“It gave me confidence that I can compete with those players and train alongside them and keep up that standard.

“Now I can really focus on my netball for that period. The whole point of the programme is that we can be full-time athletes and hope to develop a lot in a short space of time.

“That’s something that I’m really excited to do; maximise recovery time and all those extra bits you can’t do if you’re not on the programme.”

Vitality Roses selection is a reflection of the fine form that Everitt has displayed this term, forming a formidable defensive partnership with Funmi Fadoju, who will also join her in Jess Thirlby’s squad.

“She’s obviously hugely talented, athletic and can be a bit unpredictable as well!” said Everitt.

“We balance each other out in training, she will go off on things and we have to adapt and restructure.

“We help to support her in going for ball and challenge herself, making sure we can create those long balls for her to go on.

“Everyone talks about her and we’re proud to have her as part of the set-up. It’s about supporting each other through all that stuff, too, because that stuff can create a lot of pressure for her.”

This summer also sees the Vitality Roses attempt to defend their Gold Coast Games crown. Like many of Pulse’s young stars, Everitt is in contention for inclusion in Jess Thirlby’s 12-player squad for Birmingham—but the 22-year-old is just focused on pushing herself against the very best.

She said: “There’s a lot of competitive selections coming up and all of us are obviously vying to be part of the team for the Commonwealth Games and beyond, like the popular World Cup next year.

“So, for me, it’s just a good opportunity to compete with those other players in my position. It’s such a strong cohort, particularly at wing defence.

“There are a lot of strong players going for that position but we all have individual strengths and I just really want to build on what I can give individually, both at wing defence and goal defence, and knowing what my unique strengths are compared to other people.”

Still, Everitt isn’t swayed by others’ strengths – it fuels her.

“I take that competition as motivation to hone my skills and make sure what I can offer is invaluable for the team.

“I’m a hard grafter, I work really hard man-on-man but I also have quite a big range for a wing defence, I’m six foot tall.

“Traditionally wing defence has been a little bit shorter and I think that is changing. A lot of the wing defences play centre as well so to be able to have more of defensive background and have that game understanding at the backcourt, is something I think is a strength of mine.

“We’re all aware of the competition amongst ourselves at wing defence. It’s exciting to look forward and see all the different competitions that lie ahead and hopefully I will be part of them in the future.”

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