Bird flies north to land in Leeds

DETERMINED to keep playing at the highest domestic level possible, New Zealander Ellie Bird has opted to test herself in the Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) after six strong years at Mainland Tactix. With her career coming to an end in the red dress following the recruitment of Silver Ferns rising talent Aliyah Dunn who crossed to the Tactix from Central Pulse, the 196cm goal shooter chose to fly north and take up a contract with Leeds Rhinos.

A familiar face headlines the Leeds Rhinos resurgence, with ex-Silver Fern Liana Leota taking the reigns, and bringing in a number of impressive names to the side. Bird made her ANZ Premiership debut in 2018 and in her most recent season, she shot 484 goals at 90.8 per cent efficiency, also pulling down 16 rebounds. Though with Dunn’s recruitment, Bird knew her options in her homeland were limited,

“The season was coming to an end, and I thought ‘I’ll go to England’ and then I decided against it,” Bird told Beat Media via the VNSL website. “I thought ‘I’ll just retire’, but then Liana [Leota] reached out and I just thought why not? You have got to make big changes to grow as a person.

“I didn’t want to go anywhere else in New Zealand other than Tactix and I think my time had come. I was just in need of something else. “I still love netball, I just needed a change…I’ve actually considered it for the last three or so years, but I guess I was just brave enough to now.”

Bird has also taken up a role with the flood risk management team at Leeds City Council having eanred a Bachelor of Science degree in Sustainable Management. Upon signing with the rhinos, Bird told the Leeds Rhinos website she could not wait to get started.

“I am really looking forward to joining the Rhinos, it’s going to be an exciting new chapter with a new team with a different style of netball and I think it’s going to be good for my game,” Bird said. “I do have a lot of family in the UK as my mum is English, so it has been on my mind for a few years now to come over and play in Superleague and this year I have been brave enough to take the leap.

“It will be good to work with Liana Leota, obviously she has a lot of technical and tactical coaching skills, so I’m keen to see how I will develop under her.”

Leeds Rhinos finished sixth on the table, but had their moments to push for a top four spot throughout the 2022 VNSL season. With Leota leading from the front, the new head office got busy over the off-season already despite the first tip-off not happening until early next year.

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