Fadoju on her ‘shock’ Roses rise & Jamaica series

    Funmi Fadoju made her debut in the first game of a three-match series against Uganda in October before also playing in the Roses’ series against Australia in November
    Venue: AO Arena, Manchester & Copper Box Arena, London Dates: 11 January – 15 January
    Coverage: Live coverage from 11-15 January on BBC Two, BBC Three, BBC iPlayer, BBC Sport website & app

    England defender Funmi Fadoju made her international debut just four months ago in their series against Uganda.

    Already, though, she’s fast becoming one of the first names on head coach Jess Thirlby’s Roses team sheet.

    “I was shocked when they even called my name out,” Fadoju told BBC Sport of the first time she stepped on court in the red dress.

    “It’s been amazing – I came on with a few other of my age mates and we were just looking at each other like ‘this is our chance, let’s do it’.”

    The 20-year-old defender, who plays domestic netball for London Pulse, is emerging as one of the sport’s most exciting talents. She is keen to help her country progress, having watched England’s disappointing Commonwealth Games campaign in Birmingham last year from the sidelines as a reserve.

    After going into the Games as defending Commonwealth champions, England finished without a medal, in fourth, after they were beaten by Australia in their semi-final and then lost out to New Zealand for the bronze.

    “It started off so well; I’ve seen the work they put behind it so they deserved to get a better place than they did,” Fadoju said.

    “These things happen, it was so close – it’s devastating but we know we can do better.”

    Now Fadoju’s attention is on booking her place in the 12-player squad for July’s World Cup in South Africa, with England’s three-match series against Jamaica the next opportunity for her to showcase why she should be on the plane.

    England take on the Sunshine Girls on Wednesday at Manchester’s AO Arena with the remaining fixtures at London’s Copper Box on 14 and 15 January, with all matches being shown live on the BBC.

    The retirement of defenders Eboni Usoro-Brown and Stacey Francis-Bayman has assisted in the timing of Fadoju’s quick rise, but that does not diminish her talent.

    She recalls having a poster on her bedroom wall of the England team – some of whom she is now playing alongside, such as fellow defender Geva Mentor.

    Fadoju has shared a room on tours with the veteran, who she says has taken her under her wing.

    “I get all the stories, all the gossip,” Fadoju said. “We have the tactical side of it as well, teaching me all the new tricks. I have my notes out every time she talks.”

    Fadoju will learn from the experience that comes with Mentor’s 150 international caps, but is already making a mark with her own achievements.

    She won the Super League player of the season award two years on the run, recording the most deflections and the fourth highest number of interceptions as Pulse finished third last year, their best season to date.

    She was also voted Netball Scoop’s sixth best netball player in the world last year for her efforts.

    “I’m still shocked about that – I never thought it would happen at this stage,” she said. “I went on one tour and next thing I’m coming home and I’ve been named in the top six. I’m really excited for what’s to come.”

    At 5ft 9in, Fadoju is smaller than many of her counterparts but asserts herself under the post with an incredible leap – which will come in handy against Jamaica’s 6ft 6in shooter Jhaniele Fowler.

    “Maybe I’m a bit shorter than other defenders so people think ‘oh it should be OK’,” she said. “My jump is the thing I have – I started in athletics when I was younger, so I have a good jump. If ever I’m in a panic, that’s what I do.”

    ‘We need to find ruthless streak’

    England approach the Jamaica series in a sticky run of form with three straight defeats in their series against Australia in November.

    Head coach Thirlby said her side “look fresh” and have learned from the challenge of facing the Commonwealth champions but need to focus on being more fierce.

    “It’s about finding that ruthless streak,” Thirlby said. “Once we’re in games, how can we finish the team off?

    “Everyone here believes that we’re good enough but it’s about being more robust with our decision making and developing a team resilience which will carry us through games in tournaments.

    “We have great intent; we’re not backing away.”

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