England bid an emotional farewell to Eboni Usoro-Brown and Stacey Francis-Bayman after the experienced pair retired from international netball with a disappointing 55-48 loss to New Zealand in the bronze medal play-off at the Commonwealth Games.
Usoro-Brown, 34, received a cheering welcome as she took to the pitch in the dying seconds of a frustrating encounter in which the Silver Ferns, beaten by England in their last game of group last week, gradually built on the one-point lead they had established at the end of the first quarter.
Afterwards, Usuro-Brown, who finished with 117 caps for her country after making her debut against Malawi in 2008, expressed her pride in the role she had played in transforming the perception of sport in that country. into a sport that now regularly draws crowds and column. inches.
“We started this journey around 2005 when we were both young girls dreaming of playing for England, and it has always been our hope and our dream,” said Usuro-Brown, holding a bouquet presented by her friends. teammates shortly after the final whistle.
“Being part of the era that transformed netball in the UK, particularly as part of the golden age in 2018, but even those who laid the foundations before us, and being here today with packed stadiums and people singing and cheering, we had a great trip and it was just a privilege.
“We were able to fly the flag and be role models and ambassadors and tell the young girls in the crowd who want to be Roses that you can do it, you can believe it, and we have the systems in place to continue to develop the sport.
“It’s really sad and we’re going to feel really hurt for a while,” Thirlby said. “I can’t fault the effort and intent of the team. Their relentless ability to go all the way for each other is something to be admired.
“I think we had a great balance heading into this tournament, and I haven’t been shy about exposing new players over the past two years. It’s the end of an era for some, but I still think it’s important to have a good succession plan and that they learn from each other.
“Eboni and Stacey are exceptional role models on and off the pitch and I am incredibly proud of the way they have conducted their business on and off the pitch over the past 20 years,” added Thirlby.
“Eboni is such a pioneer for women’s sports, but also for moms in sports and moms in netball. We are truly proud to have embraced Eboni and her family in supporting her as she finds her way back not only to the court but also to the Commonwealth Games.
“It’s a shame we can’t send them home with medals around their necks, but this tournament doesn’t define their career.”