Blackpool Netball Player
Reaches For The Skies
From a very young age, sport and netball was in Eleanor Cardwell’s blood. Today she is a successful player with England Netball, with more than 30 caps under her belt, writes Tracy Hargreaves
Twenty-six-year-old Eleanor Cardwell from Bispham, Blackpool, started playing netball in primary school at St Bernadette’s.
Her mum encouraged her go along to the sessions after school. But she soon came to love it. Along with many of her classmates, she went on to play for Blackpool Netball Club for several years before getting a trial with and joining Lancashire Netball Club. She still lives with her mum, dad and sister, who is also into netball and her brother.
“I just absolutely love the sport,” said Eleanor. “I think you need to be, to be so dedicated to it. I used to have to travel to Manchester regularly for training and it was long days training.”
Eleanor was by now playing for the team Manchester Thunder and while at college she went forward to the regional trials, but didn’t get selected the first time, but was successful second time. At the time she played in the positions of goal defence and goalkeeper. “I went to a defensive camp in Loughborough and kept on being invited to more camps. I then represented England U17s in Netball Europe and got selected for a tour of Jamaica as part of the U19s. But I got dropped in the last cut for the World Youth Cup in 2017.
“At the time I was at Liverpool John Moores University studying sport and exercise science, the training was very full on, so I took a step down from England in my final year and decided concentrate on studies.”
In 2017, she moved to Severn Stars, a netball team based at the University of Worcester and the University of Gloucestershire and played there for two years, before returning to Manchester Thunder, where most of her career has been spent.
Her change of position to goal shooter and goal attack came by chance back at Manchester Thunder, when one of the shooters in a training session had to go home and Eleanor was asked to fill in by her then coach Tracey Neville. The next morning, she received a phone call from Tracey to say that Eleanor was now the new goal shooter/goal attack for Manchester Thunder.
“I was 18 at the time,” said Eleanor, “but I wanted a challenge and knew I had to train hard, so I went to all the under 17 training sessions for goal shooters to practice and here I am today playing for England as a goal shooter and I’ve been a full-time player for England since 2016.”
When Covid hit in March all training had to be at home. “It was hard to motivate yourself,” said Eleanor, “but you just have to do it.” The England girls were lucky to get back into camp in August and in October travelled to New Zealand to participate in a competition. “We did lose, unfortunately, but it was a great experience. New Zealand is the world number one team and we are a young team, but it really challenged us.”
So, for anyone looking at getting into netball what should they do? “They need to love the sport. If they are going into training and they are not enjoying it, it’s hard work. Try it with friends and make sure you enjoy it.
“You don’t need to be tall you can play netball whatever body type you are. The smaller ones will be the quickest and the tallest will stand in position and hold, but you do need good hand eye coordination.
“The best thing is to give it a go, whatever your age. There’s even walking netball. And it’s not just for women, men can play too. There are two teams in England, that are just male players.”
Unfortunately, the England Netball team won’t be participating in this year’s Olympics as it doesn’t feature. “I’m not sure why it’s not classed as an Olympic sport as there are so many countries that now play it and participation levels are really high. But we do play in the Commonwealth Games.
So, what’s on the cards for 2021? “We are hoping to play against Jamaica in a four-match series and the Super League season starts in February. Hopefully, that will still be able to go ahead. England is currently ranked third in the world so it would be good if we can improve on that.”
To find out more about England Netball visit: englandnetball.co.uk