Dark Days, Not Glory, Drive Haythornthwaite

Here’s what NSW Swifts livewire Natalie Haythornthwaite won’t think about when she needs motivation.

The England international doesn’t draw on the historic Commonwealth Games gold medal she won in dramatic circumstances last year at the Gold Coast.

Nor does she dwell on the consecutive Super League titles she won with Wasps Netball in 2017 and 2018.

What drives her above all else are the hard lessons learned over almost a decade fighting for success with the Yorkshire Jets.

Haythornthwaite was 16 when she joined the Super League foundation team which scrapped and strived for every win.

It took her five years to experience finals, then several more and a change of club before the versatile attacker enjoyed premiership satisfaction

“It made me the player I am today. It taught me resilience,” Haythornthwaite said.

“All those years were hard work and made me hungry for success.

“I was lucky to get on court when I did for Jets and that experience put me in good stead.

“It made me appreciate winning because I’ve been on the other side. It’s not fun.”

That willingness to take the hard road, and a winning attitude, is what Haythornthwaite packed in her suitcase for her second Suncorp Super Netball season.

She is one of the few Swifts to have tasted success at every level.

“The pre-season’s been pretty tough, but we all want to do better. We don’t want to finish sixth.”

Since reaching the grand final in 2016, the Sydney outfit has experienced a massive roster overhaul. Only Haythornthwaite has won a club title, while Paige Hadley (2015 World Cup) and Helen Housby (Commonwealth Games) know what it takes to win a major international crown.

Playing at the highest level was always Haythornthwaite’s dream.

Her mother played netball, and it was beside those association courts where she learned to compete and develop the skills that carried her to the England Roses and the Swifts.

“I was one of those kids who would want to play every sport under the sun,” the 26-year-old said.

“Then I’d get the chance to get on court and train with the mums. Mum was more of a defender, but I enjoyed the creative side of it. That’s when I fell in love with netball.

“Now it’s come the full circle and she watches me.”

Haythornthwaite is one of those rare netball gems who can handle wing and goal attack with equal impact.

While better known as a goaler, Stephanie Wood has performed that role successfully for the Sunshine Coast Lightning and Australia. Before that, Natalie Avellino’s sharp mind and silky hands equipped her for the versatile attacking role.

Having grown up as a goal attack before learning the midcourt position, Haythornthwaite is similarly a coach’s dream.

The creative weapon has put to one side her career as a speech pathologist to concentrate fully on lifting the Swifts back into the competition’s finals after two lean years. 

“It’s the best league in the world for a reason. It was great to have that experience last season because I’ve always wanted to play here,” she said.

“The pre-season’s been pretty tough, but we all want to do better. We don’t want to finish sixth.”