Statistics don’t always tell the full story. At Gold Coast 2018, the Scottish netball team replicated the finishing position of ninth that they achieved at Glasgow 2014 but this, believes Nicola McCleery belies the progress the squad has made in recent years.

Scotland defeated Barbados and Wales in this year’s Commonwealth Games and McCleery, a key member of the national team for several years, was particularly heartened by the level of performances by her team, even in the matches they lost.

“We were in a really tough group and we were gutted not to get into the 7/8 play-off which would have been against Northern Ireland, who we’ve beaten previously,” said the 23-year-old, who was one of the Sunday Herald’s ‘6 to Follow’ in the lead-up to the Games.

"But there’s a lot of positives we can take. The team has moved on so much over the last few years. When we were away, we were actually talking about how much more professional everything has become. Back at Glasgow 2014, it was more like the players played because they enjoyed it whereas now, it’s a professional sport and we’re professional athletes and that’s a huge step forward."

One rare luxury McCleery was afforded in at the Commonwealth Games was being a full-time athlete for almost a month. The PE teacher at Trinity High School in Rutherglen is used to juggling full-time employment with her training and competition schedule whereas in Gold Coast, she was able to concentrate solely on netball. But as soon as she returned home, she realised quite what an impact her Games appearance had had on her pupils.

“The kids were buzzing – they’d set their alarms for 6am to get up and watch the games, it was so sweet," she said. "The fact they were so interested was amazing and kids were coming down to the department when I was back at work to ask about it. It was so nice to re-live it with them. And even though working and training means I’m super-busy fitting everything in, that’s how I like it.”

McCleery had little time to take a breather on her return from Australia. Within two days, she was back at work and within less than a week, she was back on court in the UK-wide Superleague for her club side, Sirens.

And with Sirens currently languishing towards the bottom of the league, McCleery and her fellow internationalists who play for the side cannot afford to bask in the post-Games afterglow.

“It’s been tough having no break, more than anything, it’s been mentally tiring," she said. "It’s been hard at Sirens this season because we’ve not had the results we would have wanted. It’s hard to say what’s gone wrong but things have not quite clicked in the team this year.

"It just takes time but it’s coming. In recent games, I feel like there’s definitely been improvements. It’s our consistency across the 60 minutes that we’ve struggled with this year but if we can finish the season well, that will hopefully set us up again for next season.”