Netball World Cup Special: Jo Weston

“I’ve always been somewhat gregarious. My Mum used to say ‘there’s no show without Jo!’”

Speaking to Jo Weston, you wouldn’t realise she is just days away from one of the toughest tests of her netball career; the 2019 Netball World Cup.

The Australian is a fun, relaxed individual off the court and seems totally at ease with life as she prepares to step out into Liverpool’s Echo Arena to represent the Samsung Diamonds against Northern Ireland at 11am on Friday.

“I’ve always been a little bit odd and interested in things that perhaps are atypical of athletes,” she admits.

“I think it [the gregariousness] comes from the dancing background, just wanting to be the star.

“I think my team-mates sometimes get a little bit annoyed about it but I guess they put up with it. I do try to turn it down a little bit occasionally!”

Make no mistake though; Weston is a seriously talented athlete.

Not that she’ll necessarily grab the headlines – it tends to be the goal shooters who do that.

As a versatile defender though her job is to stop exactly that from happening and this is something she has done with aplomb for a number of years both internationally and with her domestic team Melbourne Vixens.

Despite this, the 24-year-old says she had an anxious wait to find out whether or not she’d be playing at her first World Cup.

“I was a little bit nervous actually and I think I was the last one to find out. I was barely able to swipe to answer the phone call!” she recalls.

“I was so over the moon, so excited, but I also felt a bit of relief as well.

“Selection is such a stressful time period and you build up a lot of possible situations in your head so when you are one of the lucky ones that was selected you can breathe a bit of a deep sigh.

“It still feels a little bit surreal.”

The Diamonds will need Weston and her fellow defenders to be at their absolute best if they are to win their 12th world title – and fourth in a row – this month.

They know better than anyone just how tough this will be too, having had gold snatched away from them on home turf by England with the final play of the 2018 Commonwealth Games last April.

Yet, despite possibly having the chance to exact the perfect revenge on the Vitality Roses this time round, Weston says her team are solely focusing on making themselves the best they can be.

And with so many Australian individuals and teams enjoying sporting success right now, she wants her side to be right in the mix to help increase the sport’s popularity Down Under.

She says: “The profile of netball in Australia has risen dramatically since the last World Cup which was held in Sydney in 2015.

“We had the Matildas at the football World Cup, we’ve got both the women’s and men’s cricket teams over here in the UK and we also have a rugby World Cup later in the year so I think it’s a big year full stop for representative teams.

“We’re just delighted to be part of that broader Australian sporting landscape too.”

Described as ‘highly intelligent’ by Diamonds and Vixens team-mate Liz Watson, Weston also works for Deloitte having graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce (BCom) from the University of Melbourne.

Her talents extend far beyond the netball court too.

She is somewhat of a social media star alongside being a highly passionate environmentalist, working as an ambassador for the Sports Environmental Alliance, something that has been instilled in her from an early age.

“Sustainability is something my family has always been very interested in,” she says.

“My dad’s family comes from country Victoria, we have a walnut farm up there and we have some sheep, some goats as well and it’s all very sustainable.

“It’s always been something I’ve been interested in and it’s quite topical, seeing the impact sport can have with such a large number of people and with sporting events, making them less wasteful in terms of one-use products and all those sorts of things.

“It’s a way that we can continue to move forward without leaving our earth in ruins.”

The aforementioned walnut farm also plays a part in another of her big interests – baking.

And even though her team will be following a pre-planned meal routine during their stay in England, Weston is hoping to be able to add one or two of her treats to the menu.

“I did make an apple crumble a couple of days ago when we made a team dinner,” she proudly states.

“My cooking skills leave a little bit to the imagination but I do think I’m quite a confident baker. I’m really edging for that spot in the Great British Bake Off at one stage!

“That farm-to-table mentality is something I’m really interested in and think it’s really great.”

Weston may not be the most stereotypical role model but in terms of personality, morals and skill she is the ultimate professional athlete.

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