Belfast Telegraph

Proud to wear green: Shaunagh Craig excited to get World Cup chance with Northern Ireland

 

Green for go: Shaunagh Craig was born in Bedford but is fired up to represent NI in Liverpool
Green for go: Shaunagh Craig was born in Bedford but is fired up to represent NI in Liverpool

By Richard Bullick

Bedford-born shooter Shaunagh Craig has certainly taken the scenic route to running out in the green dress of Northern Ireland for this morning's Netball World Cup opener against champions Australia in Liverpool (11am, Sky Sports).

Literally so in the sense that the chance has largely come about because Craig came to live and work at Ballycastle's Corrymeela Centre, with its stunning outlooks over the causeway coast.

But also metaphorically, for the 26-year-old, whose parents left Northern Ireland before she was born, came through the English under-age system.

Craig had won gold medals at the European Championships with England at Under-17, Under-19 and Under-21 level, though just missed out on being capped at full international level.

"I actually played in a senior Europeans but, because England are so dominant, they'd sent a development team that year so caps weren't awarded," she said.

Promising prospect Craig had been in British SuperLeague title-winning squads with Hertfordshire Mavericks and Team Bath by the age of 20, but the rising star was blighted by injury setbacks.

Those fitness frustrations and a desire to spread her wings saw the free-spirited Craig head to New Zealand, where she spent two enjoyable years before arriving in Ballycastle.

"My mum and dad, from Derry and Belfast respectively, both volunteered at Corrymeela in the 1970s, and more recently my uncle (Colin Craig) was the Centre's executive director," she explained.

Coming here with this World Cup on the horizon was a coincidence rather than part of a grand plan, but the stars aligned and a new netball chapter opened up.

Northern Ireland had lost several shooters since last year's Commonwealths and new coach Dan Ryan was aware of Craig from his spell in SuperLeague.

"I was very conscious of my Northern Irish heritage but there were no World Cup aspirations because by then I wasn't playing elite netball and had effectively closed that chapter," she said.

However, eligible 6ft 2in shooters with high-level experience aren't two-a-penny, so Aussie Ryan was keen and Craig is happy that she gave it a go.

"I'm enjoying being part of the Warriors set-up, everyone has helped me fit into a great group and Dan is an excellent coach," she said.

"This is an exciting chance to play in a World Cup, which I never expected. My parents played basketball for Northern Ireland and I'll be very proud to wear the green dress in Liverpool."

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