England’s netball team say coach Tracey Neville’s incredible bravery in dealing with her father’s sudden death has inspired them to aim high at the World Cup.
An emotional Neville re-emerged courtside on Saturday to oversee her squad edge world No.4 Jamaica 54-50 in their second pool match at Sydney’s Olympic Park.
Her appearance came less than a day after Neville Neville, also the father of former England and Manchester United footballers Gary and Phil, died after suffering a heart attack on arrival in Australia.
The 65-year-old had travelled with his wife Jill to watch his daughter, a former 81-Test star, coach her first world titles.
Gary and Phil Neville are also in Sydney, having flown from the UK to be by his side at St Vincent’s Hospital.
The events of the previous 24 hours were still visibly raw as Neville stood arm in arm on the court with England coaching staff for a minute’s silence observed in her father’s memory.
Wiping away tears, she gave an acknowledging wave to the crowd before retreating to the sidelines for the match.
The tragedy has come as a blow to England, who are ranked third in the world and are seen as a threat to Australia’s title defence.
But captain Geva Mentor said Neville’s courage in continuing to coach the side had seeped through the team and inspired them to push harder.
“It’s an unbelievable situation to be in, and I think it’s really brought us all together and a lot closer,” Mentor said.
“The Neville family are so influential and Neville Neville just holds that family together.
“Tracey has been really tough and really strong and she’s really pushed that strength over to us as a team.
“Emotions are obviously out there but to have a focus of netball and wanting to achieve and build throughout this tournament has been a really good distraction.”
The squad wore black armbands for the game in an impressive showing that lifted them to the top of Pool B, meaning they will find themselves in a second-phase pool with either world No.1 Australia or second-ranked New Zealand.
“We want to do it not just for her and her family but also for ourselves,” Mentor said.
“There’s opportunities that we’ve got to take and make the most of.
“Life is precious and life is short. So you’ve definitely got to make the most of everything out there.”
Tributes have been rolling in for Neville Neville, a former league cricketer and football agent who was close friends with Sir Alex Ferguson and David Beckham.
Beckham posted a touching tribute on Instagram, while Manchester United also tweeted their condolences.