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Rhea Dixon of Leeds Rhinos Netball.

Twenty-four months ago Rhea Dixon was working the night shift in a local bakery.

The pandemic forced many to turn to strange pursuits and the young attacker was no different, seeking any activity while much of the world sat locked indoors.

Dixon’s drive, which led her to find a supplementary income after returning from a short-lived jaunt in Australia, has reared its head once more.

This time it triggered a switch from Leeds Rhinos to Superleague runners-up Loughborough Lightning for the 2023 season.

“I’ve seen a lot of Loughborough in my time, and I wouldn’t say it’s the area that has drawn me the most,” she joked. “Initially it was my chats with [head coach] Vic [Burgess].

“She just seemed so keen and positive to have me and told me all the things I could bring to the team.

“Obviously, the calibre of players that are there now, all players being within the Roses system and, being in Futures Roses now, I want to get back into that full time program.

“The best place for me, in my opinion, is to be training with these women week in week out.

“I think learning how to win and being in that winning culture will be a huge step in my development going forward.”

Having come through the performance league at her local Surrey Storm, the 24-year-old’s career has been categorised by a pursuit of development.

First making it into the Storm’s senior set up in 2017, Dixon ventured Down Under two years later to expand her netball horizons before returning to the UK where she turned a mere training opportunity with Leeds into a two-year Superleague stint – and a few batches of late-night bread rolls.

The netball ace’s application has seen her represent England at U17,U19 and U21 levels and even resulted in a call up to the Roses’ tour of New Zealand last summer.

Dixon explained how valuable that experience has been in her journey and, despite her pride in being selected for the Future Roses programme for 2022/23, how she craves a return to the senior set up.

“That trip was just brilliant,” she said. “We were in quarantine for two weeks in our hotel, for some people that wasn’t great but for me at that point I was happy to just sit in my room and do my training and wait for my food and just get ready for what was to come.

“I was very scared to be out there, to be immersed within that group while they’re challenging for international tests, but I learnt so much from that tour.

“There were a few interactions with different people that for them probably didn’t mean a lot, but for me I’ll remember and take them forward with me.”

Dixon will be joining a roster who came agonisingly close to defending the Vitality Superleague crown they won in 2021, losing out to Manchester Thunder last term.

The youngster, who endured a frustrating campaign last term with a prolonged absence through injury, admitted the added level of expectation will require an adjustment but insisted the Loughborough faithful will see the best of her when she’s relaxed and able to enjoy her netball.

“I play best when I don’t put too much pressure on myself,” she added. “I think that when I am actually kind to myself and just enjoy the experience more than anything is when I put out my best.

“So, I know I’ll want to play well, I’ll want to perform and build those connections, but I think definitely getting in and just enjoying netball again will be my first step.”

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