Welcome to our new ballers blog where, each month, we'll bring you happenings from the world of netball, from our part of the world - Yorkshire!
Before we turn our focus to the new season, how about a quick recap on all summer happenings. To say we had a great one is an understatement. How about a fourth-place finish for our U19s at the England Netball NPL Summer Tournament? Not bad for a group of rookies from Yorkshire in their inaugural year; three of our 'then' team – Georgia Pexton, Annie James and Erin Hodgkiss - earning themselves a place at England Netball camp in the process; Georgia also gaining a spot on the England U21’s long quad! Our U17s and U15s each had successful campaigns and walked away with pride after holding their own and finishing strong in their respective comps. Back on home turf, our Rhinos camps were a huge success with over 100 athletes attending our Fun and Minis Camps, and tickets for our annual Boot Camp sold out thanks in part to Netball royalty, Amanda Newton and Nat Panagarry, dropping by for a session or two!
So, to the new season and wow, what an exciting one it is for Rhinos! We’ve some big growth plans for the club this year and just over twelve months to prepare for our charge into the Vitality Superleague! September has been a massive month in all capacities, not least with our Academy. Our second season as the official England NetballPerformance Pathway provider for the Yorkshire region meant this past few weeks was all about trials and selecting our Academy squads for the year. While as long-term performance coaches and selectors we're no strangers to talent, this time around we've been knocked sideways by many an athlete's on-court performances - which, in turn, can make it tricky to pin-point a small number to train in our Elite U19, 17 and Futures squads. Happy to say we got there and now have close to 70 athletes signed up to the weekly high-performance training programme that is our Pathway. We have also added to the U15 and U13 Regional Academy squads who were selected back in June, with over 80 athletes on-board including a 15-person squad to compete at next summer’s tour. You can see our squads in full here.
Our Community programme has also cranked up a notch this year, due in part to our intended plans to expand across Yorkshire but also, thanks to an ever-increasing interest in our sport driving the demand for more training options. Those involved in our programme last season will know our u15 and u13 Training Hubs in Leeds had reached capacity and others in Barnard Castle, Bishop Burton, Doncaster and Wakefield were into double figures and growing. As well as opening new hubs in Halifax and Morley this season, with more to follow in Otley and York, we have introduced a trial system to all regional hubs to ensure the same process applies to all athletes wanting access to our weekly 90-minute training sessions. We also introduced a new Futures hub for athletes aged 16-19 years so those who are out of age for County can continue their netball journey. So far, so good, with around 150 athletes signed up to a Hub. Overall, hub athletes benefit from the additional training Rhinos gives them which can enhance their club or county game; as well as offering them an opportunity to progress to the Academy where they improve over the course of the season. A win-win!
What to say about Mini netball... other than it has completely exploded this September! Cast your minds back two years and we had less than 10 players training on a small court at Beckett University in Leeds. That same class is now four classes, accommodating around 80 athletes every Saturday! Our other long-standing Minis class at Woodhouse Grove school is now three sessions for over 30 athletes and in Doncaster, our class at The Hayfield school again has two classes for its ever-growing numbers. New Minis classes are on their way in Leeds, Harrogate and York to help more primary school-aged players take to the court each week. From 10 players two years ago to around 150 today, you can imagine how proud we feel of all we're doing for young people in our region who love our sport.
Now, all of this talent needs support and at Rhinos, we like to think we’ve some top-notch coaches making a difference to the lives of our athletes in Yorkshire. Not only our ex-internationals, Anna Carter and Maggie Birkinshaw, both steering the organisation forward and coaching performance athletes each week, but other key individuals like Emily Perry who coaches England Netball Futures squads and leads the Rhinos’ Pathway programme, and international team coach, Dan Ryan, who is busy preparing us for the 2021 Superleague. There are many more names we could mention here and it’s for that reason we’ll be providing a full ‘who’s who in the zoo’ focus on the Rhinos Netball coaching team in our next blog.
All of this, and it’s only September! More to come in October; in the meantime, you’ll find regular news updates on our Twitter and Facebook pages – including one rather juicy announcement on a pre-Christmas event you will NOT want to miss!
See you on the court.