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Vitality Netball Superleague: Leeds Rhinos Netball ready to attack their final opportunity |  Netball News

Leeds Rhinos Netball will face Loughborough Lightning in the semi-final (Image credit – Ben Lumley)

“We have accomplished a lot in a short period of time, but one thing we have accomplished in abundance is our ability to be resilient. I think we have handled our challenges, adversities and setbacks incredibly well and we still have responded extremely well. “

Dan Ryan’s praise for his Leeds side is not unfounded, the resilience he brings to light was the foundation of their inaugural season in the Vitality Netball Superleague.

After losing three starting players to injury during the opening weekend, the Rhinos had the courage to dust themselves off and keep winning games. Over the laps, they came out on top and, after welcoming their starters, a top four finish appeared before Covid-19 hit.

The positive case within their team and the timing surrounding it have left a lot of uncertainty about their future in the competition. Potentially, they had played their last game of the 2021 season without knowing it.

However, a meeting of the Vitality Netball Superleague Rescheduling Competition Committee highlighted a predetermined rule, a rule that points would be awarded based on previous encounters if matches were disrupted due to Covid-19.

The presence and implementation of this rule meant that the Leeds Rhinos Netball season would continue, and it would continue into the Finals weekend.

“I can’t remember the last time, in any sport, when a team prepared for a semi-final without having played a game in a month,” Ryan told Air sports at the start of the finals week.

“All in all we are doing well. It has been a chaotic time, quite difficult and unsettling in places, but having some light at the end of the tunnel and preparing for a semi-final in the first year is something. something we are incredibly grateful for. “

We are eager and determined to present and represent ourselves as best we can, given the challenges and obstacles we have had to overcome during this last period.

Dan Ryan

Due to the Rhinos playing and training together indoors, the entire team were “close contacts” of the person who tested positive, which meant 10 days of isolation for all.

As a result, they will arrive for their semi-final against Loughborough Lightning after having had just three team training sessions in the past three weeks and their last competitive game being on May 31.

“It’s far from ideal preparation, but we have to make the most of the time we have, what we can do and work on what we can control,” Ryan said determinedly.

“There won’t be time for an apology, and we’ll do our best. We’ve been under pressure all season and we’ve put up with it really well, so we’re definitely up for the challenge of the Finals.”

Vitality Netball Superleague – Semi-finals

Saturday at 1:30 p.m. Loughborough Lightning vs Leeds Rhinos Netball Live on Sky Sports Action and Mix, broadcast on the Sky Sports YouTube channel
Saturday at 3:45 p.m. Manchester Thunder vs Team Bath Netball Live on Sky Sports Action and Mix, broadcast on the Sky Sports YouTube channel

It’s a task they will have to tackle without their outstanding shooter Donnell Wallam, who has returned to Australia. Wallam, who has been a force since returning from a broken ray, had to endure the terrible pain of losing his grandmother while the entire team went into isolation.

“Our priority was to get Donnell back to her family as quickly as possible, and we’re very happy that she is going home now. We will definitely be playing for Donnell this weekend, and we know she’s going to cheer us on and hope that we’ll be as good as we can, ”Ryan said.

With such limited preparation time, Ryan said during practice they will focus on their own game and how they will approach Lightning.

The “team mechanics” change slightly without Wallam, but earlier this season new England Futures athlete – Sienna Rushton – highlighted her abilities and maturity by starting in Wallam’s place.

Vitality Netball Superleague: Leeds Rhinos Netball ready to attack their final opportunity |  Netball News

Leeds Rhinos Netball will need to reunite quickly ahead of their semi-final (Image credit – Ben Lumley)

“It will be really important that we reconnect quickly. Also, that the players understand that the pressure and intensity of the Finals weekend is going to be greater than they have experienced so far this season.” Ryan added.

“So we’re trying to simulate that for the squad, not having played a competitive game in a month and not having been able to train a lot together in the past two weeks.

“It’s a challenge because as much as we have to prepare them for the intensity of the weekend, we also have to safely recharge them in terms of returning to play after being isolated at home for 10 days.”

Among Ryan’s team are people who have loved playing Superleague netball week after week. Alongside experienced Jade Clarke and Fi Toner, athletes like Vicki Oyesola, Rhea Dixon and Brie Grierson have made their mark in the Rhinos environment.

“I loved working with all of these young, up and coming players, who always had the potential and the talent, but didn’t necessarily find the right environment for them to really thrive before,” said Ryan.

“We have a number of athletes in our environment who have been outside [edges] in other franchises or even thrown too early for whatever reason. We’ve always wanted Rhinos to be a place where players can show off what they can do, be fully embraced for who they are, and create an environment that supports, nurtures, and fosters their development in a holistic way.

“What I like is that the netball public, England Netball and the coaches, have seen some of these players really shine this season. I think one of our biggest successes of our inaugural season was there. ’emergence and re-emergence of some of these great young English talents. “

Vitality Netball Superleague: Leeds Rhinos Netball ready to attack their final opportunity |  Netball News

Leeds Rhinos Netball are a tight unit that have been through a lot this season (Image credit – Morgan Harlow)

Anyone who has seen the Rhinos play or spoken to athletes in Ryan’s environment, wouldn’t know that this is their first full season together as a group. From the opening weekend, they seemed established and like a team that was going to threaten order this season.

“Building a team from scratch takes a lot of hard work, time and effort and you have to be patient, but when you have the platform to be able to build day to day it makes the process a lot easier.” , Ryan mentioned.

“The amount of access I have had to players since October, due to our full-time schedule, has been the key factor in allowing us to consolidate and establish ourselves consistently as well as gradually moving the l ‘team.

“If we were training twice a week then we wouldn’t be where we are right now. Instead, the fact that we are training every day makes us fully connected and we see each other all the time as well. , it has accelerated our development as a team. I think this is a very important message about how standards can be improved here in the UK. “

For now, Ryan is not focusing on the larger UK game. It’s about the weekend of the finals, his outfit of the Rhinos and the three other teams that will be present at the Copper Box Arena in London this weekend.

“If you look at Loughborough Lightning and Manchester Thunder, those are probably the two teams that are in good shape right now and are fighting at the end of the season,” he said.

“We know the huge challenges Loughborough poses, but we also know that we have nothing to lose in this final series and that is how we are going to attack him.

“If you look at the other three teams in the top four, these are the ones who carry the weight of expectations over them and if they don’t win the title they will most likely see this season as a missed opportunity or a failure in some ways. .

“Whereas for us we had to fight all season just to keep in touch and keep our final dream alive. Now that we’re here there’s no more pressure on us. We just want to attack this opportunity. and get all we can out of our season.

“So we have to play freely, be bold and brave, and if that means we’re good enough to compete and achieve the quality that we know we can, then who knows what can happen ?!”

Sky Sports is your home of netball. The Vitality Netball Superleague continues on Saturday, with the semi-finals live on Sky Sports Action and Mix and broadcast on the Sky Sports YouTube channel starting at 1:30 p.m.


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