VNSL 2022 Team Preview: Leeds Rhinos

THE Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL)’s newest side in Leeds Rhinos are coming off a solid debut season in the top flight, reaching the finals and finishing fourth overall after a loss to Loughborough Lightning in the semi-finals. Now the Rhinos have a new coach in Tracey Robinson who takes over from the work that Dan Ryan did in establishing the side in the VNSL.

In terms of team changes, the Rhinos have gone in with a largely identical outfit, though they have switched towering shooters. Talented Australian Donnell Wallam departed the club to head back home Down Under, while co-captain Fionnuala Toner and fellow wing defence Rosie Harris also left the Rhinos. Given the high volume of change at other VNSL clubs, the Rhinos are able to head into 2022 with relative stability and just needing to plug a few holes.

The first hole was at goal shooter, with the departure of Wallam. The Rhinos plugged that one by picking up talented South African shooter Sigrid Burger. Having plied her trade at London Pulse, Burger made the move across to Leeds and will naturally start as shooter replacing Wallam as the international player in the circle. But they were not going to stop there, signing 24-year-old Amy Clinton from Celtic Dragons.

Picking up the slack in the defensive end, the Rhinos also signed Manchester Thunder’s Rebekah Airey. Though not a defensive midcourter like those who had left, she provides rock solid reliability having come from such a successful program. Over the course of 2021, Airey averaged more than an intercept and deflection per game, and was clever under the post.

Importantly, the Rhinos only lost Wallam from their regular starting seven, and were able to blood the balanced combination of Sienna Rushton and Rhea Dixon in the mean time. Though Toner was able to provide terrific experience, Emily Hollingworth was able to hold down the wing defence role, and teamed up well with Vicki Oyesola and Tuaine Keenan. The big question mark in the defensive end, is how they fit Airey in alongside those two, given both worked well as a pairing. Then there was Paige Kindred as well.

In the midcourt, the experienced Jade Clarke will own the centre bib, though she has the versatility to play in all three positions. Brie Grierson and Amelia Hall provide the wing attack options, with Brittany Coleman, Michelle Magee and Lydia Walker the three training partners. Overall, the strength in depth for the Rhinos is definitely in their defensive and attacking ends, with a slight shortage in midcourt by comparison, but Clarke more than capable of filling any role required of her.


GK: Tuaine Keenan
GD: Vicki Oyesola
WD: Emily Hollingworth
C: Jade Clarke
WA: Brie Grierson
GA: Amy Clinton
GS: Sigi Burger

It is a new-look goal circle, and not guaranteed given Rushton’s ability up front. With Rushton and Dixon both gaining invaluable minutes as a goal circle team, either of those players could very easily start. Given the recruits of Burger and Clinton having come across as starters from their sides, one would assume they will get the first crack, though coach Robinson should have no problems there. The midcourt has that little bit less depth, but the defensive circle has Airey and Kindred as easy replacements as well.

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