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Leeds Rhinos Netball Franchise Director Dan Busfield and new signing Jemma Donoghue

Leeds Rhinos have signed Australia U21s international Jemma Donoghue, 21, for the remainder of the 2023 season from Suncorp Super Netball side GIANTS Netball.

The young star has played for New South Wales U17s and U19s and has been part of the GIANTS Academy for four years before being named as a training partner in 2021 and going on to make her SSN debut in round one last year against Swifts.

She was born in the UK, but has lived in Australia for the last 16 years and is currently studying for a degree in physiotherapy at the University of Sydney.

Speaking about her signing for the Rhinos Donoghue said: “The move has happened so fast, I was contacted last week and immediately said yes and I then arrived in Leeds on Monday.

“I know there are a lot of young and talented players at the Rhinos and I hope I can create some new combinations defensively and add something a bit different.  I’m really excited to be here and keen to get started.

“Both of my parents are English and actually met at Sheffield University.  I was born in Chelsea and then we moved to Australia when I was five years old.  All my family live over here, so it will be good to see them all again.”

The move comes after the Rhinos confirmed that the two South African internationals signed in the summer, Elmere van der Berg and Nicola Smith, were both unable to join the club due to injuries which created an opening in the squad.

Commenting on the signing, Leeds Rhinos Netball head coach Liana Leota said: “I reached out to Julie Fitzgerald [GIANTS Netball head coach] last week, had a meeting on Wednesday and the club said they would be able to release her. I then spoke to Jemma on Friday and she was on a plane on Sunday and in training on Tuesday night. So things moved really quickly. For me Jemma is exciting as she can cover all three positions, and is very similar to Vicki Oyesola, with a hunting style and can take out a goal attack or a goal shooter and turn over loads of ball and is also super fit.  I think her along with our defenders is going to create a strong a hunting pack.

“It’s a massive signing for us, especially because she was with the GIANTS and she was going to be involved with them this season before we came along with this opportunity.  We are very lucky to get her and I’m looking forward to seeing her represent the Rhinos.

“It is huge that we are able to bring in a player to our squad and give some support for our defenders who have had lots of game time in our opening rounds.  Jemma adds another body and different dimension and I think for the team it gives them a lift and some excitement, with another player coming in with different expertise.”

GIANTS Head Coach Julie Fitzgerald said she was excited for Donoghue: “It’s a bit bittersweet. We’re sad to lose her from our program, but what an exciting opportunity for her,” she said.

“At the end of the day we want everyone within our programme to be playing netball at the highest level they possibly can and if that opportunity arises elsewhere or overseas, we’re in full support of our players taking that opportunity up.

“Jemma has the full support and encouragement from everyone at the GIANTS and we look forward to seeing what she can do over in England.”

Watch Leeds Rhinos take on Loughborough Lightning this Sunday live on Sky Sports YouTube at 4pm.

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