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Liana Leota: “There’s so many star-studded teams, and the challenge is going to be huge”

Severn Stars captain Liana Leota can’t wait to step back on court to test herself against the best in the game as the Vitality Netball Superleague curtain-raiser rapidly approaches.

The New Zealand star will have a double-header to look forward to as the new campaign gets under way, with Saturday’s season opener against Strathclyde Sirens followed swiftly by a clash with Wasps on Sunday.

All matches will be shown live on Sky Sports or streamed on YouTube, with the netball community able to watch every second of what promises to be the biggest and most action-packed season to date.

With Leota’s former Manchester Thunder side looking to defend their crown, there are a wealth of teams looking to knock them off their perch in 2021.

And the Silver Fern is looking to get the season off to a flying start at Wakefield’s Production Park Studio 001 this weekend.

“I think for us it’s going to be two completely different games with two completely different styles, so how we adapt from one game to another is going to be crucial,” Leota said.

“It’s amazing, because after the All Stars Series we saw the fanbase blow up, and now every single game is on YouTube or Sky Sports there’s going to be so much talent to watch and so much netball.

“There’s so many star-studded teams, and the challenge is going to be huge. But at the same time that’s exciting, you want to be playing against the best in the world week in week out and you want to see how good you are against them.

“It’s good for the Vitality Netball Superleague, and it’s good for the fans, because the standard of netball is going to be at such a high level.”

There will be international talent on show wherever you look this season, with Vitality Roses star Jade Clarke heading up newcomers Leeds Rhinos, while South Africa’s Ine-Marí Venter will be looking to weave her magic for Saracens Mavericks.

Commonwealth gold medallist Serena Guthrie will be looking to fire Team Bath to glory once again, with competition on court likely to be as fierce as ever with the best in the world going head-to-head.

“I’m really looking forward to coming up against Team Bath, they’ve pretty much got an international team in their first seven. But I love a challenge, so I’m ready to take them on and see what they’ve got,” Leota added.

“It’s great to have another team in the North in Leeds, I just think it makes it exciting and gives fans new people to watch and a whole new team to have in the Superleague.

“I think the Thunder are going to be strong no matter what, they’ve got a strong core base which have been there for the last three or four years.

“Once we came in for our first training we just want to learn, learn, learn and you just want to get better, and I just can’t wait to get back on the court.

“We’ve had such a great build up and there’s so much competition within our team, I couldn’t even pick a starting seven.”

Leota has been involved with the grassroots netball community throughout the past year, helping out with Zoom training sessions with her player sponsor Stafford Grammar School, as well as outdoor sessions last summer with her local side Trafford seniors in Manchester.

So the two-time Commonwealth medallist knows just how much it will mean to see netball back on our screens this weekend, with everybody ready to drive the game forward together to help the sport and league Rise As One.

“People won’t see all the behind-the-scenes stuff that England Netball has been doing to keep everyone safe and healthy,” Leota said.

“As a Superleague, as franchises, as players, as parents, we all just want to see netball back on the court.

“My family in New Zealand will be able to watch it on YouTube, there’s so many people who will be able to watch the Superleague now who couldn’t before, so it’s huge.

“It’s just so exciting, there’s going to be ups and downs, there’s going to be big teams surprised by the little teams, and it’s going to be exciting no matter what.”

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