High-five for Rhinos as Leeds prepare for 2023

LEEDS Rhinos are gearing up for a huge 2023 Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) season, having added five players to their squad for next year. The latest signing was Celtic Dragons defender Nia Jones who is coming off an impressive 2022 Commonwealth Games campaign with Wales, where she co-captained her nation to eighth place. With former Severn Stars teammate Liana Leota taking over the reigns at the Rhinos, Jones took the opportunity to rejoin the new coach in Leeds.

“I’m ecstatic to be joining the Rhinos,” Jones said. “I was fortunate enough to play with Liana Leota for a couple of years at Severn Stars and I just think she is a wonderful person and we know how magic she was on the court as a player and I have no doubt that she will be a fantastic coach and leader so I couldn’t turn down an opportunity to work with her and be part of an exciting squad that she has assembled. “They have challenged for the top four in the last couple of years. “I have not moved up here to be cruising around the bottom of the league and I do see us in with a chance of top four.”

Leota said she was excited about including Jones to the squad, with the ex-Dragon joining currently contracted Brie Grierson, Vicki Oyesola, Michelle Magee and Rosie Harris in the Rhinos squad.

“I am delighted to bring Nia to the Rhinos. “I know her well from her time at Stars,” Leota said. “She brings leadership and is a great team player. “She is a hard worker and is the one that will grind right to the end.  I think whenever she plays she always has a presence about her and us demanding of herself and from others and that’s what we want as part of our team.”

Though the quartet of Rhinos re-signing meant Leeds had five players on paper thus far early in the re-signing period, there was a lot of experience walking out the door. Those departures include co-captain Jade Clarke who was the Rhinos’ inaugural captain, as well as inaugural list members, Rhea Dixon, Paige Kindred, Sienna Rushton, Tuaine Keenan and Amelia Hall. Adding in another quartet of players who debuted for the Rhinos last season in Sigrid Burger, Amy Clinton, Rebekah Airey and Lydia Walker, and Leeds will be without 10 of its contracted players for season 2023.

Leeds Rhinos franchise director Dan Busfield said the club wanted to wish the departing players well and thanked them for their efforts over either the past season or two.

“I would like to thank all 10 players who are leaving the Rhinos,” he said. “They have all made a huge contribution to our club, both on and off the court. “We are a young franchise and these players have played an important role in helping shape our club and culture and they will always be part of the Rhinos family. “They leave with the sincere thanks from everyone involved with the club and we wish them all the best for the future.”

Leeds Rhinos will have some significant signing to do over the short-term to replace the departures, with Jones the sole signing from another club thus far.

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