Welsh netball begins to rise out of ashes after encouraging Commonwealths
Welsh netball was at its lowest ebb in 2019.
Failure to qualify for the World Cup was the most damning indictment of all that something just wasn’t working.
Yet just three years later, the Welsh dragon is beginning to roar once more.
While Wales may have lost to Malawi in their classification match, meaning they register an 8th-placed finish, it did little to take away any confidence in the Sara Moore regime.
This was a different side to the one that finished 11th on the Gold Coast before missing out on the World Cup in Liverpool.
Names have changed, the average age has come down, and there is a new feel about the side.
Leading the charge is 23-year-old Ella Powell-Davies. The defender has earned plaudits across the game for her performances, and the Wasps player believes this is the start of something bigger.
"I just think that we've shown everyone what Wales netball is all about,” said Powell-Davies.
"Behind closed doors which is where most of the progress happens, not everyone sees it.
“It's at these major competitions where everyone sees the growth so to really showcase what netball in Wales is all about and how it's changing.
"We're so happy with how we've represented the country.”
This summer, Team Wales, supported by funding raised by National Lottery players, compromises of over 200 athletes, all vying for medal success.
Wales picked up two wins at the Games, beating Barbados along with a notable 48-42 victory over Scotland, while also getting to go up against the might of Australia and Jamaica.
For Powell-Davies, while they may have lost 79-33 to the Diamonds, she can’t wait to get out there and play against that calibre of opposition again.
"I think that when we talk about the development at Wales, that's only going to happen when we get to play against these top teams,” added Powell-Davies, who teaches PE when she is not punishing attackers.
"So the fact that we can showcase that we are progressing as a country will only heighten the chances of us been able to play against those top teams so that's definitely our aim."
Victory against Scotland was a watershed moment for Wales, a vindication that what they ar doing is correct.
The 48-42 score line did not reflect the gap between the teams, with Wales dominant for three quarters. For Nia Jones, it was a key marker on a long journey back.
“It makes us a little bit emotional,” said Jones. “Missing out on the 2019 World Cup was catastrophic for Wales Netball and it was a massive massive step back for us as a nation.
“We feel like we owe our fans and members representatives at major tournaments like that so that was a huge wake-up call for us as players and management.”
Wake-up they have, and with World Cup qualifiers for 2023 just around the corner, Moore’s side will take heart from how they have performed in Birmingham, knowing they must banish the demons of four years ago.
And with Powell-Davies at the heart of defence, they are sure to be better placed to book their tickets to South Africa.
"This is my first Commonwealth Games so I definitely had nerves coming into it but the fans, my team, my management and my family, the support I get, my performances are all for them,” said Powell-Davies.
"I absolutely love performing and I love being here and this is only the start of my netball career so only up from here.
"[It's now] build up for the World Cup Qualifiers here with Wales and then get stuck into my Superleague season.”
National Lottery players raise more than £30million a week for good causes including vital funding into sport – from grassroots to elite. Find out how your numbers make amazing happen at: www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk and get involved by using the hashtag: #TNLAthletes.