Jonathan Joseph has joined the Lions
You all know Jonathan, 26, who is in New Zealand with the Lions, but his sister Hannah, three years his junior, is also an England international at netball. Her team, Loughborough Lightning, are runaway leaders of the Superleague heading into this weekend’s final round. So how come one family in Derby delivered two such stellar sporting talents?
JJ “Both our parents are pretty sporty – dad played rugby for Northampton, mum was a PE teacher – and we were quite active kids. If they put a toy in front of us we weren’t too fussed about that, we wanted to be out in the garden. We did every sport we possibly could.”
HJ “We spent most of our childhood outside.”
Why did you end up playing an indoor sport then Hannah?
HJ “I played a lot of hockey as well as netball but training and matches started to clash so I had to make a decision. I preferred hockey aged 14 but the set-up and standard was a lot better in netball so I went down that route.”
What were your other sporting interests Jonathan?
JJ “Tennis and football were big for me. I almost went down the tennis route but I preferred team sport. I almost went down the football route too but rugby was the one I got most enjoyment out of and stuck at.”
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I almost went down the tennis route but I preferred team sport
You have 14-year-old twin brothers too. Tell us a little about them.
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HJ “William is really sporty and doing really well at his rugby. He’s probably as good as J. Alex has a few learning difficulties. He enjoys coming along to watch my netball matches because it’s warm and light inside.”
JJ “Alex is definitely the best dancer of all of us. He puts Michael Jackson on in the lounge and he will dance to that all day long.”
How did you two rub along when you were children?
JJ “As competitive kids we were terrible, we were always arguing, always fighting.”
HJ “We didn’t get on at all. We argued over everything – who was sat where on the sofa to watch TV, who was going to sit in the front of the car on a two-minute journey…everything. But after J left to go to boarding school, when he came home once a month or whatever we’d get on. Since then we’ve got on a lot better.”
Have you a lot in common now?
HJ “We’re very similar.”
JJ “We definitely don’t like the same music but we laugh in each other’s company. We get on and have a lot of fun together.”
You made your England debut at 21 Jonathan. How did you feel when your little sister matched your achievement in 2015?
JJ “She had worked so hard and up to then hadn’t quite had a lucky break so I was over the moon for her and told her how proud of her I was.”
Jonathan Joseph plays for Bath
What do you think of netball as a sport?
JJ “The footwork, agility, reading the game, hand/eye co-ordination is fantastic. Some of the skills are incredible. I’ll put it on at home with Anthony [Watson] and he’ll say, ‘Oh no, we’re not watching netball’. And I’ll say, ‘Just give it a go’. I really enjoy it.”
HJ “There is a bit of crossover. Speed and footwork are really helpful in both games.”
JJ “Tracey Neville [England head coach] came into our camp during the Six Nations.”
HJ “That was good because she saw from a successful team what is working and how best to manage full-time players. They’ve won so many games and that’s what we are aiming to do.”
Do you watch each other’s matches?
JJ “It’s difficult because we are very tied up with our own sport. With Hannah being at Loughborough and me Bath and our seasons running at the same time it is hard to see one another.”
HJ “I have been to Twickenham a few times for England games. I really enjoy it. I’m very envious he gets to play in front of so many people. It must be such an amazing buzz.”
Are you frustrated that netball doesn’t get the same following?
HJ “The media attention on rugby is much bigger – unless you’re a real avid netball fan you don’t really know what is going on – but we are growing and we are getting much bigger crowds. When I started playing Superleague four years ago there would be 500 at a game. The other week there was 2,000 so we are gaining momentum. If we can keep going like that we’ll be in a good place.”
Jonathan Joseph almost decided to become a professional tennis player
How about the relative pay rates? How would you like £22,000 a Test like the England rugby team?
HJ “We’ve only just gone full time with England so we have to appreciate what we are getting. Where we are is so much better than we were a year ago.”
It’s an exciting time ahead for you both with the Superleague play-offs and the Lions tour. There was a lot of speculation over the make-up of the Lions squad, how did that impact on you Hannah?
HJ “I was in the gym when the squad was announced. We had a weights session and I had it on my phone. I was more nervous for that than for my own squad announcement. When it’s your own you kind of know the answer but although J had been playing really well and we thought he had a good chance we were prepared either way. When they read out his name I had to double check I’d heard it correctly. I was so proud.”
You missed the last two games of the season for Bath with wear and tear issues. Are you going to be okay to take on the All Blacks, Jonathan?
JJ “I had played a lot of rugby and I was struggling a bit. I never had any time off around the Six Nations and it all caught up with me. I had a few issues so I took a bit of time to get my body right and get some rehab done to make sure I was firing for the Lions. I’m fine now. I’m good to go.”