On February 1, Leeds Rhinos take on Loughborough Lightning in their first home game of the 2019/20 season from Beckett University, Headingley.
The u19s team is hoping for a big crowd of supporters for this, their fourth fixture of the current season and first played in the north, with games to date against Severn Stars, London Pulse and Surrey Storm all occurring away from home. This is the squad’s second-year competing in the UK’s Netball Performance League, where they are looking to feed on the momentum of last season’s top-four finish and the excitement that continues to build as the franchise approaches entry to the Superleague in 2021.
The afternoon will feature two games, first up, the Rhinos u17s Elite at 1.30pm followed by the main feature game at 3.30pm when the two u19s teams from Rhinos and Lightning will battle it out on the court at Beckett’s Arena. Tickets to the event cover both games and with close to half of the venue’s capacity seating already taken, Rhinos are expecting the event to sell-out which is testament to the appetite for netball in Yorkshire and to a growing fan base keen to see their local team go well.
Director for netball at Rhinos, Anna Carter, is hopeful for the squad’s season ahead:
“It’s a new team this year with a handful of legacy players and it takes time to build in this highly competitive league although with the crowd behind us, you know it can give the players a real lift and I think the girls will react. Last season we pretty much sold out every home game which is amazing stuff and a massive boost for Rhinos so we are hoping everyone in Yorkshire will bring the noise again this time!”
Reflecting on the recent game at Barking Abbey Leisure Centre against London Pulse, Pathway Head Coach, Emily Perry, drew on a number of positives ahead of the February 1 fixture:
“We had a strong defensive presence throughout the game, turning ball and giving ourselves plenty of possession. Charlotte Mannall had a stand out performance at GK gaining intercepts from a dominant Pulse GS, although we struggled to find connections on attack which allowed Pulse to edge away in each quarter. This is something we have been working on in training and hope to see improve by our first home game.”
While the u17s do not compete in the NPL, their games are of massive value to the younger athletes coming through the Yorkshire pathway, many having their sights set on future success with the Rhinos franchise and Head Coach, Maggie Birkinshaw, was also feeling confident in her squad ahead of the Beckett fixture:
“So, we met with North East and the Scottish Thistles recently where we saw plenty of intensity from all teams plus some fabulous passages of play. All 12 Rhinos players were given the opportunity for court time on a positional rotation which allowed them to put into practice elements from their training in a live fixture. A valuable experience, especially against a National team and good to see these girls working super hard and showing their grit and readiness for the next competitive level.”
Tickets for the February 1 fixtures against Loughborough Lightning are £4 per person and can be purchased from the Rhinos website here.