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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 June 2007, 20:06 GMT 21:06 UK
Sonia Mkoloma's netball diary
Sonia Mkoloma (Litmus Images)
By Sonia Mkoloma
England international defender and Brunel Hurricanes captain

May was definitely a rollercoaster month, blessed with highs and lows.

The high of all highs, was England's Test series against world champions New Zealand and Australia (number two in the world). England A played as a guest team so our players had plenty of court time.

We started by beating New Zealand 50-45 in Manchester. What a match - my best ever if I can blow my own trumpet! We led for the whole 60 minutes, which was just a great team performance.

Sonia Mkoloma (Litmus Images)
In the photo shoot, we looked hot, hot, hot!

Sonia Mkoloma

We beat England A but against Australia we were unable to sustain form over four quarters and lost to them 40-47. But believe me, they had to work for every goal they scored.

England finished the series second, which I think is a job well done and puts us in good stead for the World Championships.

Following the Test series, I went straight back into Superleague, where the Hurricanes had our big play-off match against Loughborough Lightning at the Guildford Spectrum, where there was a great atmosphere.

It was a nail-biting game which had the crowds on the edge of their seats. Unfortunately, we were not able to seal our place in the finals and lost by two goals in the dying seconds. The thought of it still brings tears to my eyes now.

I can say that I am so glad that we were able to finish the season so strongly, finishing joint-second. It is an improvement from last season, so we are doing well as a team. I also hope to see everyone at trials next season!

I also recently took part in a fab photo shoot with the Hurricanes girls at Brunel University.

The place was transformed into a studio and we had a fun day. In the pix, we looked hot, hot, hot! We also did fashion and bikini shots and have definitely discovered a salsa queen in Stef (Stefania Bello)!

YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED

Is there room for netball with women's basketball now improving in stature?
Mike E, Michigan, USA

Of course there is, Mike!

Netball and basketball are very different sports. You have to appreciate each sport for its individuality and they can't be compared, no matter how alike they may appear at a glance.

They possess totally different skills and tactics. The Guildford Heat basketball team come and watch our matches and they will vouch for how different and exciting netball is.

Also, over 7m people play netball globally and 1m in the UK every week so I think there is plenty of room for netball.

What makes netball fun?
Emily, Enfield

Emily, let's be real, netball is not fun for everybody. I mean, I don't like golf!

Netball is a competitive team sport. Players get the opportunity to specialise in a particular area. Like most sports you maintain a healthy diet, keep fit and look great doing it.

So I hope that even if you don't play, you give it a chance. Learning a new sport is the hard part, playing is when the fun really begins.

Sonia, I am WA and need to know more "getting free" tactics.
ET, South Africa

Well, Miss ET, I certainly am no WA that's for sure! but when I train against England WA Karen Atkinson, I have picked up a few tactics which she uses.

1. Off the centre pass, don't always start static. Start your preliminary movements early to lose your defence. As the whistle blows, you are then free to take the ball unmarked.

2. Good timing is the key. Never make your move too early. If your timing is ok, then it is hard for the defence to mark you.

I'm 5ft 9in and at the moment I play GD, but my coach is trying to turn me into a centre-court player.

Are there any Superleague teams with circle defence my height? Or is there no chance? PS Well played v TeamBath - I was in the front row!
Hannah, Bournemouth

Hannah - I look at it like this: if you're playing GD, turning over the ball, getting rebounds, jumping high, maybe even able to tip shots, then you are fine.

But if you are struggling in the circle and your height is holding you back from getting the ball, then moving to a WD is ok, too.

Look at England captain Amanda Newton. She is 5ft 10in or 11in but has been moved across to WD.

I'm sure if they had told her earlier in her career that she'd be too short compared to me at just over 6ft and Geva at 6ft 3in, then she would have learnt to play both positions earlier on.

If the coach asked me to play WA, then I'd do it as long as I'm on the court.

As an elite player and a degree holder, how can you help spread the message that combining a good education and sports talent is an excellent way forward for our young people of today?
Ola Fadoju, England

I took so much pride in getting my A-levels and degree, whilst playing for England.

Young people need to recognise that any good sports team will support their quest for a good education.

When you are at the peak of your sport, you need to be able to balance other things in life and be organised. If I can do it, anyone can.

I was juggling netball, a steel band, education, work and a social life. It just takes sacrifices at times and prioritising.

I always looked at it like this - if I got injured so that I couldn't play again, what would I do instead?

Hopefully my fellow England players and I can get these important messages across to young people through the media.

At Brunel Hurricanes we will be visiting schools as part of our community responsibilities.

Sonia is 28 and has played in two World Championships and the Commonwealth Games with England. She lives in west London and works as a young person's support worker.

Despite the season coming to an end, Sonia will continue her column as the preparations for the World Championships in Auckland intensify over the coming months.

Send Sonia your questions using this form and read her answers to a selection of last week's at the bottom of the page
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SEE ALSO
Sonia Mkoloma's diary
26 Apr 07 |  Netball
England fall short in tri-series
17 May 07 |  Netball
England stun world champions NZ
13 May 07 |  Netball
TeamBath maintain perfect record
06 May 07 |  Netball
Netball results
24 May 06 |  Netball


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