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Clare Jones

After years of essays and presentations written on the back of buses, Clare Jones will finally be able to join in the fun and games during the 2023 Vitality Netball Superleague season.

The mid-courter is about to finish her PhD this month, before embarking on a job in the NHS working in an older adult neuro-psychology department alongside playing netball for Celtic Dragons and Wales, having re-signed for her home team for the new campaign.

But while admitting she’ll find it weird to have so much free-time travelling to and from games, the 31-year-old believes her studies off the court have helped her on it.

“I’m not sure what I’m going to do on the bus to away games!” joked Jones, who took two years away from netball while applying for her PhD. “I’m usually the anti-social one. I’ve had my fair share of panic-writing essays, I’ve given presentations.

“It’s basically been netball and training, it has been for several years. It was always going to be ambitious, but we’ve done it.

“They have always gone hand in hand for me; what you learn in sport has always transferred into what I do as a job.

“The way in which I’m able to establish relationships and understand things from a different perspective, they’ve always interlinked for me.

“I’ve been hugely fortunate that both sides have been understanding but I’m going to have a lot of free time on the buses now so I’ll be able to join in with some of the organised fun.”

Fun will very much be one of the watchwords for Jones and Dragons for the upcoming season, as they look to build on a season of foundation-laying under coach Dannii Titmuss-Morris.

Dragons finished 10th last term, winning three of their 20 games, but Jones knows there were plenty of positives for her side, who lost narrowly on a number of occasions.

And while Jones believes last season was a strong one for those in green, she insists they cannot rest on their laurels and must continue to progress in 2023.

“Last season is a season we’ll look back on with a huge amount of pride,” said Jones. “We felt completely refreshed.

“We knew something had to change and we did have a lot of changes to contend with. I think it was hugely advantageous for us, both on and off the court.

“We were able to rebrand ourselves, and we were able to display a style of netball that was really attractive to everyone, particularly our fans.

“As players, we bought into that style of netball that was competitive across the league.

“It’s something we’re hugely excited about to continue this season.

“Now that we can be confident in the style that we’ve put out, we can probably be a bit stricter with our targets.

“We didn’t necessarily meet all targets last season but what we reflected on was the margins that we were able to make, particularly in the second half of the season.

“Looking to this season, I think making top eight is going to be absolutely crucial for us.”

The 2023 Vitality Netball Superleague season comes into focus after a whirlwind summer of netball at the Commonwealth Games.

Jones’ Wales finished eighth, a strong result for a side that had been left soul-searching following their failure to qualify for the 2019 World Cup.

The 31-year-old is now one of the more experienced members of a side that boasts a number of exciting young players.

And Jones is hoping the good vibes from Birmingham follow through to her country’s World Cup qualifiers this October as they look to banish the demons of four years ago.

“To be able to have the Commonwealth Games that we did, it just allowed all the hard work to pay off and just enjoy ourselves which I think you could really tell when we were on court,” added Jones.

“In the Wales camp, we’re playing some really exciting netball. We’re a group of girls who are so ambitious in wanting to progress Welsh netball and put it on that world stage.

“It was brilliant, we had a lot of supporters in their bucket hats, always a Welsh flag in the crowd, and we’re hugely appreciative of all the support that we get.

“Things had to change and they did. It’s still painful but in some ways it was probably the best thing for us, because since not qualifying, something had to change.

“We were absolutely ecstatic with eighth, but to lose that play-off by six still hurts but it meant that we can contend, six goals is nothing in netball.

“We’ve got a good idea of where we are but we certainly have a better idea of where we could be.

“Reflecting on the characters we’ve got in the squad at the minute, they are hugely motivated, they’re hugely ambitious, and they’re hugely hard-working.

“We’ve all bought into this culture within Wales Netball that is wanting bigger and better things for ourselves and for the squad.

“Looking forward, we’ve got World Cup qualifiers – we go back into camp this weekend so we’ll absolutely be looking to put right the wrong that was four years ago where we didn’t qualify.

“Not qualifying won’t be an option for us.”

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