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Nia Jones of Leeds Rhinos poses for the camera as if she is taking a selfie

It has been an off-season of change for Leeds Rhinos, with a new-look squad under new head coach Liana Leota set to take the court in 2023. 

But that hasn’t dampened aspirations thanks to an exciting signing window that has seen a number of names arrive from abroad as well as two 2022 Netball Super League champions. 

Rhinos head into the season as an unknown quantity but will hope to return to the play-offs, having finished fourth in 2021. 

Last Season 

A sixth-place finish saw Rhinos briefly challenge for the play-offs before falling away in the latter stages. 

Victory against eventual bronze medallists Team Bath in Round 14 was the perfect tonic to defeat to Celtic Dragons and looked set to kickstart a play-off push, before defeats to Wasps, Manchester Thunder, and London Pulse put those plans on hold. 

Signing Window  

Rhinos have been one of the busiest franchises in the off-season, as Kiwi legend Leota looks to put her stamp on the Yorkshire outfit. 

Just a few familiar faces such as Brie Grierson, Vicki Oyesola, and Michelle Magee remain with the likes of Jade Clarke and Rhea Dixon departing. 

In their place has come a raft of new additions from the NSL and beyond, including former Manchester Thunder pair Caroline O’Hanlon and Millie Sanders

Northern Ireland captain O’Hanlon will be joined in midcourt by Wales skipper Nia Jones and England Rose Elle McDonald, while SPAR Protea Nicola Smith will team up with Sanders in defence. 

There’s new firepower in the shooting circle too, with England Futures athlete Paige Reed arriving from Severn Stars and Elmere van der Berg making the switch from South Africa. 

Star Player  

Elle McDonald has had a busier pre-season than most, as she became the newest England Rose alongside making the move to the UK from Australia. 

McDonald was born in Leigh and Jess Thirlby was quick to take advantage, with the mid-courter playing against Jamaica and in the Quad Series. 

The 28-year-old can operate at both centre and wing attack and will look to feed a new-look shooting circle with plenty of ball. 

One to Watch 

Millie Sanders is already a NSL champion aged just 21, having lifted the title with Thunder last year, but will now look to establish herself as one of the best defenders around. 

Sanders battled Shadine van der Merwe for the goal defence bib last season and stepped up impressively in the Grand Final with the South African out injured. 

The England A international will hope more time on court can help her show exactly what she is about on a more regular basis. 

What they said  

“It’s really exciting that we are a new group,” said Nia Jones.  

“We are trying to buy into what has been so successful for them, adopt those cultures but also bring some new traditions and new styles of doing things. 

“Leeds Rhinos as an actual club isn’t very old and this group is really new so we have set our sights on challenging for finals for sure, but we are okay if it doesn’t happen this year.  

“We are focused on gelling together as a group, establishing a really strong culture, and making sure that we are up there as a top club in this league for years to come, not just this season.

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