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Severn Stars secure signing of New Zealand ace Liana Leota

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - APRIL 01: Liana Leota of Manchester Thunder is interviewed at the end of the match during the Vitality Netball Superleague match between Strathclyde Sirens and Manchester Thunder at Emirates Arena on April 1, 2019 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images for England Netball)

Severn Stars have announced the signing of New Zealand star Liana Leota as its first signing for the new 2019/20 season.

The Commonwealth Games gold medallist joins Stars in both a playing and coaching capacity.

“I am really excited to be a part of a new franchise and team, and definitely excited about a new challenge and the potential the team has to do big things this season,” she said.

“I hope to bring all of my experience, my skillset and creativity.  I have been playing netball for a very long time.  I have had some amazing coaches, played with some of the best netballers in the world and played in a lot of high-pressure matches.  For me, it is about passing on my knowledge and sharing my experiences with those that ask or want it.”

She said she was looking forward to working with her teammates.  “The Stars’ defence really impressed last year so I am keen to see how that can only get better for the upcoming season,” she added.  “I also love having a great understanding and relationship with my shooters.  They are key in order for me to do my job, and do it well.  My individual benchmark I have for my own team goals every year is to make the top four and then anything after that is a bonus.”

Leota said Stars’ new Head Coach, Melissa Bessell, was one of the factors that attracted her to the Club.  “Being able to have someone from New Zealand, as your coach and friend, was huge,” said the 34-year-old, who plays at both wing attack and centre.  “We also share similar values, goals and the same vision moving forward for this team.  I had Melissa as a coach for a couple of years in the New Zealand Maori team.  I loved how she says everything as it is, doesn’t beat around the bush, her work ethic, but also the work ethic she demands of her players, and her passion for the game.”

Leota moved from Palmerston North, New Zealand, to the UK with her family in 2011 and played for Manchester Thunder for the last four seasons.  An impressive international career saw her win gold with the Silver Ferns at the Commonwealth Games in 2010 and silver in 2014, and silver at the 2011 World Championships.  Leota, who will also be coaching within the Stars set-up, said she hoped to use her experience to guide younger teammates.

“A big plus for me would be my teammates learning something new from the knowledge or skill set I can either pass on or demonstrate in training, in games or off the court,” she added.  “When deciding on making the move, Melissa had also talked to me about a mentor role within the team, how she had a young team that just needed someone in the mix with some experience to guide and equip them with the right tools and the knowledge.  With the potential to grow, this group could be enormous if we get it right.

“I am definitely not your normal netball player.  I see things very differently to most and try to play the game steps ahead of others.  I hope that I am able to show my teammates that there are many different ways to play the game we love and you don’t have to do play it like everyone else.”

Severn Stars’ Head Coach, Melissa Bessell, said: “This has to be one of the best signings in the Vitality Netball  Superleague.  Liana is not only a world-class athlete, but an amazing leader with an enormous amount of experience and one of the most down to earth, beautiful people in the game today.  It is so exciting to have her playing for the Severn Stars this season.  She is one of the most dynamic players with an innate knowledge of the game.  Her passion and flair is simply magic.  I am so pleased to be working with her in my first season with Severn Stars and am excited for the other athletes to work alongside her.”

To stay up to date with the Vitality Netball Superleague, including player movements, tickets and the latest news make sure you sign up to the Vitality Netball Superleague mailing list, you can sign up here.

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