The most-capped England player of all time on 166 international appearances and counting, Clarke is understandably savouring every moment.
Looking ahead to tomorrow’s semi-final against New Zealand, she said:
“We’re loving (being in Liverpool). We love the city itself, we love going out for coffee, seeing the lovely buildings. The support has been absolutely phenomenal.
“You can’t walk down the street without people wishing you good luck which shows how friendly the city is. It properly feels like home now – we’ve had some really good games and some really good times.
“You feel like a rock star. Everything little good thing you do, there’s a wave of support. It makes the nerves go away. We had a long wait for the game (against South Africa). Sometimes that makes you a little more nervous when you wait all day, but as soon as you get to the stadium, all the Pivoteers wished us good luck.
“It makes you feel like if you make a mistake, it doesn’t matter, and you can keep going because you’ve thousands of people right behind you.”
Having beaten South Africa in their last game, the momentum is behind England as they look to reach Sunday’s showpiece final, and that was always the intended outcome from the final group match of the Preliminaries Stage Two, as Clarke outlines.
“We could have said ‘we’re in the semi-final no matter what’ so we could have been a bit flat, but we really wanted to be dominant and come first in this side of the table.
“We want to keep building momentum. It wasn’t the perfect performance but we’ll take a lot from it: it’s important that we’re getting the wins on the board and keeping that confidence building.
“South Africa are such a good team. They’ve got (Karla) Pretorius who is one of the best defenders in the world right now. It’s another game under our belts with the defensive unit working together, so we’ll take a lot from that.”
The Silver Ferns are next up, the team against which Clarke made her senior England debut back in 2003.
Of their current threat, she said:
“We’re expecting a world-class team: New Zealand have been there and done it all before; they’ve got experience.
“Our coaches will be looking at New Zealand, putting little video clips together for us. It’s a bit of a different style again – that’s the thing about the World Cup: one day, you’re playing a one-on-one team and the next you’re playing a zone, so that’ll be another thing to think about. That’s something that we really sink our teeth into and we can rise to the challenge.”
Having won gold at the Commonwealth Games last year, this tournament was always likely to be a watershed moment for English netball.
Following the exploits of the England football team at Women’s World Cup, a brilliant summer of women’s sport across the country could yet be capped with a first ever Netball World Cup triumph for the Roses. That would be a truly special end to Clarke’s fifth World Cup, at which she is an official ambassador for the competition.
“I’ve heard the crowd singing ‘It’s coming home’ during the games. It would mean so much. We got so involved in the football and the tennis, and just to reward everyone who’s working hard to get netball on TV and get netball in the media, it would mean a lot to give something back to them and have something to celebrate.
“A few people have asked me if I feel more pressure because it’s a home World Cup, but I’ve been playing with England for a long time. We’ve dreamed of being in that position where people are expecting us to win, so I’m just enjoying it.
“This is what we’ve worked so hard for. All the past players, all the past coaches, all the past captains, who have got us to this position, where we can win it – I’m just enjoying it and I see it as a huge opportunity.”
It wouldn’t just be England players and fans that the win would mean such a lot to, either. After the tournament, coach Tracey Neville will step down from her role in order to start a family – and there would be no better way with which to bow out than by winning as hosts.
“Back in 2002, she was a player when I was a player, and now she’s the coach. Something that’s stayed true is her passion for netball and she has pushed us so far. We want to do it for her, for the fans and for ourselves.”