Highbury korfer Jo-Anne Wilson is heading to the Czech Republic next week to represent England Under-23s at the IKF U23 World Korfball Championship. We sent our very own Craig Hilton to catch-up with Jo to discuss the England’s chances, how she got into korfball and how best to win a Highbury Oscar.
Craig: Jo so are you excited to be playing for England in the U23 world championships?
Jo: Yeah I’m really excited, I think this is one of the best teams we’ve had at a junior level. I think we’ve been training together as a group for six years now. We all started together at Under 16s and so we all know how each other play. It’s all been geared towards getting a medal and we’ve not won one yet but I feel like this our chance to get one.
C: Ah that’s really cool. I’m obviously new to Korfball but I think remember reading England are rated number 4th in the world?
J: Yeah. We’re 4th, Chinese Taipei 3rd and Belgium 2nd but they can’t come to this tournament. We’ve got a real chance of a silver medal.
C: Is there quite a buzz in the team then because of a chance of a medal? Have the U23’s ever won one?
J: We came really close as the U21s but we didn’t quite make it so this is our last chance before we all get too old (laughs).
C: You’re quite close with the guys that you play with then?
J: When I was first learning Korfball I was playing with these people. Yeah lots of memories, loads of tournaments, we’re really close.
C: You guys have been playing for years and years together you must know each other like the back of your hand?
J: Yeah you know what people want from you. People kind of pre-empt each other’s moves. You know what each other’s weaknesses are as well. One of my big weaknesses (Jo laughs) is my concentration and so whenever I’m not concentrating they’ll be like JO!! (Both laugh). Yeah it’s quite funny and we’ve also been having team psychology sessions. We’ve never had that before it’s a new thing.
C: You hear about the England football team getting over their fear of penalties. Is it that kind of thing then?
J: Yeah it is. We’ve just had a really one on concentration. We did activities and talked about it, gave people roles in the team. How we can keep each other going and just other stuff like mental tiredness.
C: So taking a step back from England for a bit. How did you come across Korfball?
J: My brother played, he picked it up at school. When I was about 11 they set up a junior team and it was really fun but then the junior team ended. So Dad and I went along to senior team together, we were playing alongside each other. Then a few a years a later few more juniors joined. It’s been like 8 years now since I started playing. Long time!
C: Was that why you enjoyed playing it as a kid then, because you got to play with your dad?
J: Not just that the people in Korfball are really nice. They always looked after you. As a kid playing with adults you’d think it would be a bit frightening but I was always just so chilled out because everyone was so lovely. I think that’s the one of the best things about Korfball everyone’s just so friendly and welcoming. You could have played for years or hardly anytime at all.
C: Yes definitely! So you’ve been playing for Highbury this year. What brought you to club?
J: Essentially I moved to north London. I’ve always lived in south London but when I moved to north it was quite a long commute down to Croydon every week. Liked how easy it was to get to training. I really liked the social side getting to know so many different people and experiencing a different type of Korfball.
C: And you won an Oscar at our awards this year right?
J: (Laughs) Yes.
C: What award was it? I forget (Huge grin on Craig’s face at this point)
J: (Says whilst laughing) Best Korfball moment.
C: How did you win that award?
J: (Laughs) Well… After the Christmas Party I turned up to the match 10 minutes late. Almost fell into the hall. Got straight on to the pitch, only lasted 5 minutes and had to go vomit in the toilet. I’d already vomited about 6 times that day. (Both laughing) Yeah I was just not in a good way. Thing was everyone was watching as well because it was a home match. I think I must just have looked so grim.
C: Because as you’d imagine I’ve heard that story before but hearing you say it again is pretty good.
J: (smiling) So embarrassing. I remember Mo was like ‘You need to keep going, you need to keep playing’
C: But it’s fair to say you’re quite good at korfball. Do you know officially how many games of Korfball you’ve played according to fixtures live?
J: Oh my God. What England as well? 200?
C: Not quite 142. Do you know how many goals you’ve scored in those 142 games?
J: Probably not that many.
C: In 142 games you’ve scored 130 goals. That’s pretty impressive! Almost a goal a game.
J: Wow yeah I’m pretty pleased with that. I thought it would be way lower.
C: So going back to England you mentioned about funding. Are you personally footing the cost to go out there? How does it all work?
J: Yeah we’re paying for it all ourselves it’s costing about £850 each. Quite expensive.
C: Very expensive. There’s a page though that people can go donate to though yeah?
J: There’s a Just Giving page that’s on England Korfball social media sites (and now on Highbury’s as well). Really appreciate Highbury donating to it. Stuff like this really helps.
C: Something else I meant to ask earlier: what’s it like representing your country? Have you ever thought about it?
J: Whenever I think about it this, ‘Oh yeah I do play for England at sport’. I just remember this time when I was 14, it was the first time I’d ever represented England .There was a big crowd, the biggest I’d ever played in front of. We all put our hands in and I was so nervous. I was like pooping my pants (Both laugh). And I remember all at once the crowds started cheering for England. Remember thinking this is really cool and at that point I was really proud. Another point when I feel it is when we sing the national anthem. We’re standing hands behind our backs. It’s truly amazing stuff you’ll never forget.
C: Well good luck with it all. Everyone from Highbury will be supporting you from home.
J: Thanks. You can actually watch us on the live stream. We’ll be posting the links, they’re usually quite good.
C: That would be good fun getting a few guys together to watch.
J: Maybe if we’re in the bronze match.
C: No you’ll be in the final!
J: (laughs) Yeah! Against the Dutch. I don’t think people know about the streams, it’s all free. I think most of our matches are at 8pm. I’m so excited now talking about it!
The tournament starts on 9 July with England U23s facing Poland U23s in their opening game. You can follow all the action live via the IKF website. The final will be played on Saturday 16 July.
Jo joined Highbury last summer from Bec, scoring 34 goals in 19 appearances for Highbury’s 1st team in 2015/16.