Housby: We need to handle criticism to take women's sport to next level

 

Helen Housby in action for NSW Swifts Photo: Narelle Spangher, Netball NSW

Helen Housby wants female athletes to toughen up and ‘cop the criticism’ given to male counterparts.

Women’s sport has never drawn more eyeballs. The Women’s T20 Cricket World Cup reached 701 million people worldwide and 11.9m UK residents tuned in to watch the Lionesses in World Cup quarter-final action.

And netball poster girl Housby believes increased scrutiny will come with increased interest but that shouldn’t stop top players basking in the spotlight.

“Men have been paid a lot of money and seen as the professional gender, so they’ve copped criticism,” said the straight-talking Cumbrian.

“As women we need to cop that pressure. You can’t be too soft, if you’ve had bad game you’ve got to stand up to criticism.

“This isn’t a fantasy, you need a bit of edge and pull factor. Sport is the epitome of drama and we can be a bit too polite in the way we say things.

“Any coverage is good, even if you’re talking about a bad run. Phil Neville has been absolutely hammered when the Lionesses have played badly, quite rightly.

“If someone tells me I've had a bad game, I’ll say ‘it’s fine, I’ve had a shocker’. It’s good people are paying attention. We weren’t even in the newspapers a few years ago.

“It might be tough, it might make you emotional, but you have to deal with it. It’s easy to hide behind abuse when there’s constructive criticism out there.”

At 25, Housby has already scaled the peak of her sport, scoring a last-gasp winner to grab Commonwealth gold from Australia in 2018 and earn a shout-out from hero David Beckham, as well as a lucrative Red Bull contract.

But she practices what she preaches and doesn’t shy away from the disappointment of England’s Netball World Cup campaign on home soil in 2019. 

Tracey Neville's side were tipped to scoop a maiden title in front of heaving home crowds in Liverpool but fell short in an error-strewn 47-45 semi-final defeat to New Zealand.

And despite the last six World Cup finals being contested between Australia and New Zealand, Housby felt England’s failure to break the duopoly represented a flop.

“A bronze was amazing but it wasn’t the medal I was there for, so it was a failure,” she said.

“The medal was still important to the girls and it can be very hurtful to hear it called a failure but it’s not what I wanted anyway.

“Pressure at a home World Cup is natural and we felt pressure, especially off the back of the Commonwealth Games.

“We managed to play our own game in front of some incredible crowds and to be honest, there isn’t much I'd change apart from that semi-final. It was devastating to lose that.

“I believe we were good enough to win gold, which is tough, but New Zealand showed up, they were the better team on the day.

“We’re always going to have ups and downs and that was one of the downs.”