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Van der Berg replaced by Braithwaite for Leeds Rhinos

Leeds Rhinos Netball have confirmed that South African international Elmeré van der Berg will no longer be joining the Netball Super League team for the 2023 season after it was confirmed her recent injury would rule the goal-shooter out for the majority of the campaign.

The franchise has confirmed that Pathway shooter Amy Braithwate, who made her Netball Super League debut in this year’s Season Opener against London Pulse, has been promoted to the Rhinos squad for the remainder of the season.

Van der Berg was scheduled to join the Rhinos in January following international duties but this date was pushed back after the 21-year-old picked up an injury. Following the setback, the club and player have now agreed to terminate the playing contract to give Van der Berg time to recover and to allow the Rhinos to be able to bring a replacement player into the squad.

The club have also been in contact with Netball South Africa regarding the fitness of Nicola Smith who signed for the club for this season. The defender is still rehabilitating from an injury and is not expected to be able to join the Rhinos in the foreseeable future.

Commenting on the announcement, Rhinos Franchise Director Dan Busfield said: “We are obviously disappointed that we won’t see Elmeré play for the Rhinos this year. Given the delay to her arrival and the start of our season, both ourselves and Elmeré felt it was right to end her contract for this year and give her the time she needs to rehabilitate her injury with Netball South Africa and we wish her the best with her recovery.

“As a club, we have looked to support both Elmeré and Nicola following their operations last Autumn but there are obvious logistical difficulties with them both being based in South African and we have relied upon Netball South Africa for their expertise on their injury rehabilitation.

“We have been in regular contact with Netball South Africa around the injuries to both Elmeré and Nicola Smith, unfortunately the time scales we were given for clearance to travel have been moved on a number of occasions. With our season having now started, it is essential that we have a full squad available to Liana Leota hence our decision on Elmeré and the need for clarity with Nicola. We remain in discussions with Nicola to get a better understanding of whether she will be able to join the Rhinos this season and hope to have a final decision in the near future.”

Amy Braithwaite, who comes into the 12 player squad, is part of the Rhinos Pathway, is expected to be involved in this Saturday’s game against Strathclyde Sirens.

Braithwaite said: “I’m really honoured to be part of the team and I can’t wait for the rest of the season. It’s been good to train with the first team and the environment has been amazing and the girls have been supportive and pushed me hard. Getting my debut this year against Pulse was a dream come true.

“I’m proud to be the first player making the step up from the Rhinos Pathway and I am sure I will be the first of many. Francine Hall has coached me for many years now in the Pathway and has helped me so much. All the Pathway coaches have been amazing and I think I have progressed a lot since I joined and the have always pushed me to go for opportunities like this.”

Dan Busfield added: “Amy is the first player to come through our Pathway to make her Super League debut, which is something we are all proud of and is testament to the hard work of the coaching staff and Amy. I am delighted she has been rewarded with a Super League contract and look forward to seeing her represent the Rhinos.”

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