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Madi Browne of Australia.

ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 04: Madison Browne of Australia passes the ball during the Constellation Cup match between the Australian Diamonds and the New Zealand Silver Ferns at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre on October 4, 2013 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images)

Leeds Rhinos Netball and Australian import Madi Browne have decided to defer her playing contract until the 2022 Vitality Netball Superleague season.

The former Australian Diamond is still recovering from the knee surgery she had last year and whilst progressing steadily in her rehabilitation, was unlikely to be cleared to play before April, at the earliest.

Alongside the uncertainty and continuous challenges caused by the impact of Covid-19, the decision was made in the best interest of both parties to delay the star midcourters arrival into the UK.

Dan Ryan, Leeds Rhinos Netball Head Coach, said everyone was disappointed not to have Browne join the team, but fully supported the decision based on the current circumstances.

“We are all gutted that Madi won’t be joining us in Leeds for this season, but considering the current landscape and priorities here, we all understand that athlete welfare and safety comes first,” he said.

“Madi was in a bit of a race against time to be fit for the season and considering the state of pandemic in the UK, we all agreed it was in her best interest to stay at home and focus on her rehab without any time pressure or added stress.

“While she won’t physically be here this season, she’s so eager to stay connected with the team and do whatever she can to support from afar and I’m sure she’ll continue to have a huge impact on the group.”

The delay in Browne’s contract starting is aimed to give her the adequate time to fully recover from her injury, with the plan for her then to join the Rhinos later this year, in preparation for the 2022 season.

“It’s definitely disappointing as all I wanted to do was be there for the beginning of this programme with this great group of people,” said Browne.

“I want nothing more than this club to succeed and whatever is right for the team, I am all on board for. I will continually be there to support my Rhinos in whatever capacity I can this upcoming season.”

Dan Busfield, Franchise Director for Rhinos Netball said: “I have been liaising with Madi over the past few weeks and of course we are disappointed that she won’t be taking to the court with the Rhinos in our first season in the league.

“We feel that there were a number of factors which make this a sensible decision for both parties, particularly from a welfare point of view. During all our communication it has been evident that not only is Madi a legend of the game, but a great person who fits right into the culture and ethos of Leeds Rhinos.

“Madi will continue to be part of the team and wider club and we look forward to her joining up with us later this year.”

Leeds Rhinos will announce a replacement player for the 2021 season in the coming days.

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