My 5 role models… with Nat Panagarry

My 5 role models and the ways they inspired me

Totally Runable’s Natalie Jackson spoke to England Vitality Rose and Loughborough Lightning Netball Captain Nat Panagarry, about the role models who inspired her to pursue a life in sport and be a strong fearless female athlete.

1) My first coach, Suzanne Gosling

Suzanne passed away 15 years ago, and I wish she was around to see how far I’ve come. I’m from Preston and played at Suzanne’s club, Darwen Netball Club, from Under 11s until I was 18. She was this Northern, gritty, woman who inspired all the values I have as a player; the never-give-up attitude; my hunger to win; my communication. She was the first person outside my family unit to really believe in my ability. I remember telling her she was getting carried away when she said I would play for England one day. I was only 15! She’d take me to watch older age group sessions and nurtured me as a player in me. We spent our Saturdays in a tent in the rain in Manchester, where our local rivals Oldham usually won, but occasionally we pipped them! I love looking back on those days and Suzanne was a big part of that.

2) My Mum and Dad, Julie Tayburn and Phil Panagarry

My parents weren’t into netball until I was, but now they’re bigger fans than me! My Mum grew up in India and did mostly basketball and swimming, and my Dad played football, but now my sisters play netball and my partner loves netball, even though she was a footballer. We’re a whole netball family!

My parents put in so much effort, supporting and sacrificing. They’ve always been there for advice, being brutally honest at times, which is what you need. They’ve been realistic along the journey, especially when I got deselected at 21. They always trusted my decision and never stopped supporting me, no matter what I chose. They spent a lot of rainy Saturdays in Manchester too!

3) Jessica Ennis-Hill

Growing up I played hockey and netball, and did athletics in the Summer; particularly hurdles and long jump, so as someone who loved those events I idolised heptathlete Jess . When I studied at Leeds Met University she would sometimes train there. Seeing her warming up on a bike next to me in the gym really helped me see what was possible. I’d never seen an elite athlete in real life before. I rang my Mum to ask whether I should get her to sign my towel! I didn’t in the end, which I’ve always regretted. I was lucky enough to see her 2012 Olympics victory live in the stadium, which definitely inspired me to be more involved in sport.

Jess was an absolute workhorse on the track but came across as a lovely, genuine person. I remember the pressure she was under in the lead up to London 2012 and seeing how she handled it all. I’ve read about the injuries she went through in her book too. I’ve never met her properly but she’s always been an inspiration!

4) Olivia Murphy

Liv is my coach at Loughborough Lightning, but growing up she was the England Captain and Centre. You connect with players who play in your position, and I loved watching her. She is such a lovely person and genuinely cares about her players, on and off the court. She reads the game better than anyone, and she’s one of the main reasons I’m still playing in Loughborough. She sends me clips of things to work on, and the way she sees me on the court is probably better than I see myself. To have a coach that backs you and cares about you, as well as pushing you, is brilliant. There’s no pressure, I just I want to be around her and develop.

5) Karen Atkinson

As a centre court player and England Captain I’d idolised Karen growing up. She’s still one of the best Wing Attacks we’ve ever had, and she’s the reason I’m playing netball at all now. I was deselected at 21 and hadn’t played for several years when Kaz asked me to come to Loughborough and play in the Superleague. She remembered me from playing against me at Mavericks, but it must’ve been a risk. I didn’t know if I’d still be able to play netball at this level, but she had faith in me.

It was amazing to be surrounded by so many legends in Loughborough and they all looked after me; I even stayed with Kaz’s family for a month. A year later I was selected for the England Roses and I’ve been in the England programme ever since. She still keeps in touch with loads of us and messages us when we are playing big games. She’s a phenomenal role model.