THE onset of pre-season training would suggest there has been some kind of break from netball for Emily Nicholl. Not that she would ever want such a thing.

Strathclyde Sirens are back in the swing of things ahead of the new Super League season that gets underway in February. An intense training schedule was broken up by a recent weekend at Crieff Hydro, one of the club’s sponsors, where the reward for completing some gruelling team-building exercises was some pampering sessions in the spa rooms.

“We did something called archery tag which was interesting,” she reveals. “We went up last year and did a hardcore fitness thing but didn’t have time to use the spa. So we made sure we had time to use all the facilities this year! We’ve got a few new players in the squad so it was a good chance to get to know them a bit better before the season gets underway.”

For those players like Nicholl in the international fold, however, netball has become a year-round commitment. The domestic season may have finished in late May but for the Scotland players that was followed up by the Commonwealth Games and then the World Cup qualifiers where Tamsin Greenway’s side booked their place at next year’s finals.

South Africa will be the hosts for that event and so the Thistles will head there before the turn of the year for another mini-tournament that will double as a scouting mission ahead of the World Cup.

“We’re heading down there to play South Africa, Zimbabwe and Malawi in a quad-series so we’re going to be playing against Towera [Vinkhumbo] who’s one of our Sirens team-mates which will be exciting,” adds Nicoll.

“It’s Pretoria rather than Cape Town but it’s going to be a really useful preparation to head to South Africa six months before the World Cup starts. We’ve been trying to play them for two or three years now but it kept getting cancelled because of Covid. It’s a chance to take over some new players and expose them to that setting and allow the more experienced ones to get used to the environment and the structure.”

Next year won’t be any quieter with the World Cup set to run from July 28 to Aug 6 following the conclusion of the domestic season. Nicholl is already looking forward to it.

“This was my second experience of the World Cup qualifiers and I was more nervous this time around than my first time,” she admits. “I think that was because I’ve been to a World Cup [in Liverpool in 2019] before and I know how much it means.

“There was so much on the line in the qualifying event. There was an expectation that we would go through but you still have to pull it off. And going into our final game knowing we’d already qualified was such a relief for everyone. That’s testament to the hard work that everyone has put in over the past few years. Now we can look ahead to South Africa next summer and being part of another World Cup. That will be special.”

For Nicholl, it is a demanding schedule that has to be all fitted in around her day job as a solicitor. But ask the 28 year-old if she ever feels like just getting away from the sport for a while and she recoils almost in horror at the notion.

“It’s been non-stop really but it’s been good as it keeps you motivated,” she says. “After the Comm Games we didn’t have a dip where you’ve got nothing to do as straight away we were setting our sights on the World Cup qualifiers. And now we’ve got pre-season starting up, the South Africa trip and then the new league season starting in February.

“So you’ve always got something to work towards. It has been a pretty solid period of netball but we love it and we’re getting amazing opportunities so it’s really cool. This is my seventh or eighth season coming up and I think I’m one of only a few to have played in every single one.

“But it’s never crossed my mind to take a break. Everyone who knows me knows that netball is my absolute passion. It always comes first for me. I’ve never put a timeline on my career and I feel that I’m very much at my peak. But I’ve always felt that the moment you stop enjoying it is the time to walk away. I’ve seen girls in the past trying to push through when maybe their heart wasn’t quite in it. I want to walk out on court every time absolutely loving it. And that’s very much the case at the moment.”