Top 10 teams we are looking forward to seeing in 2021: #1 Leeds Rhinos

IT has been an unconventional year of netball and as 2020 comes to a close the Draft Central team casts an eye to the future and which teams we are excited to see take the court for the 2021 season. There has been a number of player changes throughout the offseason across the ANZ Premiership, Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) and Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) with retirements, pregnancies and injuries impacting some teams. But that does not mean that next year will not be action packed with some fresh faces elevated to full time rosters and internationals joining new leagues. It is no surprise that the number one spot falls to Leeds Rhinos who are gearing up for their first VNSL season.

Headed by former Adelaide Thunderbirds and Northern Ireland coach, Dan Ryan, Leeds Rhinos have an excellent mix of youth and experience. The new side is expected to bring plenty of excitement and unpredictability given the number of new faces and connections across the court with Ryan assembling a strong unit of players. He is experienced at both an international and domestic level making his appointment as head coach a perfect fit for the new franchise.

One of the key pillars set to grace the court for the Rhinos in 2021 is none other than Jade Clarke. Crossing from Wasps Netball, Clarke currently holds the record as the highest capped England international with the talented midcourter not only oozing experience but so too class and composure to weave the ball down the court with great ease. The midcourt is relatively stacked with international experience with former Australian Diamond and Collingwood Magpies co-captain Madi Browne also joining the side. Originally thought to have retired from the sport all together having dealt with an ongoing anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury, Browne will provide that attacking element to the Rhinos while offering great versatility able to swing between centre and wing attack within an instant. She is renowned for her pinpoint accuracy with ball in hand and with a full preseason under her belt anything is possible.

Hailing from Western Australia Donnell Wallam is somewhat of an unknown quantity but is set to make a splash in the upcoming VNSL season with the Rhinos. Wallam burst onto the scene in a preseason practice game against West Coast Fever with the towering goaler coming up against the likes of Australian Diamonds goal keeper, Courtney Bruce and holding her own. Despite having limited exposure, Wallam proved her ability to star against quality opposition using her height, reach, accuracy to post and quick footwork to reposition, something she will be hoping to bring to the Leeds side. Inside the circle there is no shortage of shooting options and while they may not be as widely known as the likes of Browne and Clarke still have plenty of skill and excitement about them with Brittany Coleman steadily building a name for herself. Rhea Dixon is another one to keep an eye out for alongside Brie Tyler-Grierson with the duo able to rotate between wing attack and goal attack when needed.

Up and coming defender Vicki Oyesola is likely to set the tone down back with her hunt and tenacity undeniable. The former Loughborough Lightning defender can play both goal defence and wing defence giving the Rhinos that added bit of flexibility while Paige Kindred is another option.

With a number of key selections the expectations are somewhat high for Leeds and given they are headed by Ryan the possibilities are endless. Although it might take a while for the connections to really solidify across the court there is plenty of promise given the high calibre of players and mix between youth and experience. Boasting a strong core through the centre it will be exciting to see how the relatively inexperienced defensive and shootings end fare in 2021.

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