Rhinos add exciting talent to 2023 squad

LEEDS Rhinos have bulked up their 2023 Vitality Netball Superleague squad by adding a couple of big talents over the past week. The off-season has proved a big one across the competition, with the Rhinos bringing in ex-Manchester Thunder players, Caroline O’Hanlon and Millie Sanders. O’Hanlon will add experience to the midcourt, while Sanders is a rising defender in the competition and a future Roses player having represented England at junior level.

Northern Ireland captain O’Hanlon was a key cog in the Thunder midcourt, having lead her nation in the Commonwealth Games, and also to VNSL success in the yellow dress. O’Hanlon said she was excited about the journey ahead with crossing to the Rhinos under new head coach Liana Leota.

“I am really looking forward to joining the Rhinos,” O’Hanlon said. “I have been with Thunder for the last five years and I loved that experience. “We of course had a great year last year but I am now looking ahead to a new challenge and I am really excited about the squad that has been put together.

“I know Liana from her time at Thunder so I can’t wait to get working with her again, she is a fountain of knowledge and as a player she had loads of flair and a high work ethic and will bring fresh new ideas.

“I have been an admirer of Leeds over the last two years, I have really enjoyed watching their style of play and how they have developed as a franchise and I was really impressed when I spoke to the club about their aspirations for the season and I am ready for a competitive year. The squad that they have gathered is really exciting and I think we can do some really good stuff on court.”

Leota is no stranger to O’Hanlon, having teamed up with her in the Thunder midcourt, and is pleased to have that extra experience to run out for the league’s newest side.

“I am so happy that we have Caroline as part of our team, I think she was outstanding at the Commonwealth Games and individually it was the best I’ve seen her play,” Leota said. “She is a person you always want on your team, she’s hard working and a good person on and off the court and would do anything for the team.”

Sanders is a rising star in the VNSL, capable of playing both circle defence roles, and had a promising season for the Thunder in 2022. In making the move, she said she was hoping to make an even bigger impact in season 2023.

“I’m really pleased to be joining the Rhinos, it’s a huge franchise and the fans and girls seem amazing and I just cant wait to get started,” Sanders said.

“I had a great year with Thunder last year, I didn’t expect to get a contract and then to be playing most of the games I think it really brought me on, getting that exposure. “I was doing Under 21s before that and it’s a completely different game, with the fitness and everything so I think I have got a lot more experience which I hope to be able to bring over to Leeds.”

Leota said Sanders was one to watch for the future, but was excited to be giving her opportunities to continue her development at the Rhinos.

“I know Millie through Thunder,” she said. “She has a lot of energy and hustle and is a hard worker. “She had a great season last year and put herself on the map. “She is part of the Roses Futures programme so I am excited to see how she develops over the next couple of years.”

The pair are among seven signings for the Rhinos, who also brought in Celtic Dragons’ Nia Jones, and re-signed Rhinos quartet Brie Tyler Grierson, Vicki Oyesola, Michelle Magee and Rosie Harris.

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