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McDonald never far from comforts of home with Cardiff Dragons

Cardiff Dragons’ Elle McDonald is no stranger to a long-haul flight but is never too far away from the comforts of home.

The Greater Manchester-born midcourter moved to Australia at the age of eight but, following stints with Victorian Fury, Melbourne Vixens and Adelaide Thunderbirds, made a move back to England to join Leeds Rhinos ahead of the 2023 Netball Super League season.

Months after making herself available to the England programme and enjoying a Vitality Roses debut in January 2023, McDonald headed to Wales to play under Australian legend Jill McIntosh.

The 29-year-old has been reunited with defender and former Victorian Fury teammate Jacqui Newton and believes Dragons’ togetherness is down to their network of growing connections.

“We’ve got quite a bit of Aussie influence now, especially with Jill, myself, Jacqui and Leah [Middleton],” McDonald said.

“Jacqui and I came through the pathway together in the Victorian Fury team and won the Premiership, we were also training partners in 2020 with Melbourne Vixens when they won the Suncorp Super League.

“To finally get to play with each other on the other side of the world in Wales, we sometimes catch ourselves saying ‘this is so crazy that we got here together’.

“It has been a bit challenging coming back to the UK but spending a bit more time with the family who didn’t move across to Australia, it’s been really nice to reconnect with them.

“There are times where it’s tough but that’s when you lean on the people who you’re closest to in your team and we’ve got a few people at Dragons in a similar position.

“This is what we dream of doing. To play at this level is so small in comparison to what we do for the rest of our lives, you do really have to put that into perspective and grab those opportunities with two hands.”

This weekend, McDonald and the Dragons squad take on Team Bath in a Friday night Battle of the Bridge thriller, with tickets still available to buy here.

Since returning from a foot ligament injury to make her debut against Severn Stars, McDonald has been enjoying a flourishing midcourt partnership with South Africa Proteas star Khanyisa ‘KC’ Chawane.

Approaching the halfway mark of the season, this season’s new recruits are pitching themselves as ones to watch for dynamic fast-flowing netball.

“Being able to play and build that partnership with KC and feed off so much speed with her has been great,” McDonald said.

“She has a lot of flair as well, so I’m really enjoying that link and I can’t wait for that to grow throughout the season.

“Injuries can be so tough. Mentally it’s a huge setback and doing everything that you can in terms of physios is so important.

“It’s easy to become isolated on the team when you’re injured, so it’s important to make sure you’re as involved as you can be.

“To finally play a half against Stars and be part of that win was great, I had so much fun out there.

“We had a couple of tough games against London Pulse and Loughborough Lightning but we want to be competing against the best and when we’ve come up against top teams, we’ve felt good.”

Cardiff Dragons’ campaign is masterminded by the wealth of McIntosh’s experience but McDonald insists the mantra around the squad is about doing the simple things well.

The midcourter’s sporting idols growing up all formed part of Australian Diamonds teams, who followed in McIntosh’s legacy when she led the national team from 1995 to 2003.

“Watching the Aussie Diamonds was something I did growing up and at the time they had such a rivalry with New Zealand, they were a class above the rest,” she said.

“She’s such a successful coach so it’s amazing that she’s now coaching us.

“What we do at training is the simple things really well, a lot of the skills we’ve focused on in the junior pathways.

“Executing those well is her philosophy when she’s coaching. She’s been great and she’s had a lot of influence on those people I’ve looked up to throughout my life.”

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