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The First Interview: Bird becomes a Rhino

At the end of last season, Ellie Bird had a decision to make – be brave or retire. 

Her six years with Mainland Tactix in her native New Zealand had drawn to a close but Bird felt her options in Aotearoa were limited.

She decided to take the plunge, and Bird flew the nest and arrived in the UK as Leeds Rhinos’ latest signing. 

The season was coming to an end, and I thought ‘I’ll go to England’ and then I decided against it,” the 29-year-old explained.

“I thought ‘I’ll just retire’, but then Liana [Leota] reached out and I just thought why not? You have got to make big changes to grow as a person.

“I didn’t want to go anywhere else in New Zealand other than Tactix and I think my time had come. I was just in need of something else.  

“I still love netball, I just needed a change…I’ve actually considered it for the last three or so years, but I guess I was just brave enough to now.” 

Bird was speaking as she arrived in Yorkshire for the first time, but she will not be completely out of place in the UK. 

Last season’s tallest player in the ANZ Premiership, Bird holds a British passport and has regularly visited family in the south of England. 

She will have some Kiwi familiarity in the form of new Rhinos director of netball Leota, the former Silver Fern who joined the team from Severn Stars. 

She added: “Coming to Leeds Rhinos, obviously learning off someone like Liana, she’s the technical coach for the Roses. 

“She has a lot of knowledge of the game, and I am really looking forward to having some more specific coaching from her.

“I’m really looking forward to the new adventure not only in netball but just life as well. I’m looking forward to learning a new style of netball.  

“Obviously, it will be different to what I have played back home, but I’m just looking forward to new coaching and playing with new players, it is going to be exciting.” 

Bird has been enjoying a tour of the continent prior to her announcement and is relishing the fact that mainland Europe will be just a short hop from Great Britain rather than 10,000 miles away. 

The 2020 NZA team member also visited France when her rugby-playing brother Dominic, the tallest All Black in history, was playing for French side Racing 92 between 2018 and 2021. 

 

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A post shared by Ellie Bird (@elleanorbird)

Bird will continue to perfect the work/netball balance she established during her time in New Zealand as she looks to practice what she learns from sports psychology.

She said: “I like to work, I was either studying or working the whole time that I was with Tactix in my spare time. 

“I like to have something to focus my mind on outside of netball as well because there’s nothing worse than overthinking it, especially as a goal shooter!

“I’ve done sustainable management and environmental studies at undergrad and postgrad. Over here I will be working at Leeds City Council in the flood risk management team. 

“In netball, I’m quite enjoying the mental skills. I think sports psychology is something that I’ve used a lot in my career and I’d like to get into that, but we’ll see where the wind takes me.” 

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