Leeds Rhinos have won two and lost one of their first three games as a Vitality Superleague club, exceeding the expectations of many in the process.
The manner in which they bounced back from their first defeat and the loss of three starting players in particular, has been heartening for all involved at the club.
“Unbelievably proud of how they’ve handled all the adversity and all the challenges,” said Ryan, Rhinos’ Australian head coach, after they lost Donnell Wallam, Fi Toner and Tuaine Keenan.
“Any less of a team could have fallen apart in those moments, but we’ve been galvanised through the struggle and we haven’t dwelled on anything for too long, which says a lot about these players and what they’re bringing to our overall environment.
“We’ve been unfortunate to lose three key starting players, but the depth of talent and the role that the younger players have played in filling that void has been surprising and pleasing and inspiring.
“I expect that to continue because these girls really play for each other, they are really invested into the team and the club.
“To have achieved it all in just 21 weeks together is encouraging for the future of the club.”
Certainly a platform of high character is being built. And also professionalism as a young team grows together in a sport and a league where standards are rising with each passing week.
“The beauty of this young group is they’re learning things all the time,” continued Ryan.
“It might be technical, it might be tactical, it might be how they prepare, how they recover; there’s always something to gain from every moment that we share together.
“It’s been great to see the players develop their own understanding of their preparation and their own game, their own performance, exploring that part of being a high-performance athlete as part of a high-performance team has been really quite fulfilling.
“We’re a constant work in progress. But to come out of the first three rounds with two wins is really promising and our mentality and our vision does not shift, irrespective of our results, we want to be striving for continual improvement all the time.”
Victory over the long-established Loughborough Lightning tomorrow evening (6pm) at Studio 001 in Wakefield would be their biggest yet, a fact not lost on Ryan.
“We are keen to come up against one of the best teams in the league,” he said.
“There’s quite a common understanding of how Loughborough play the game, they’ve got incredible weapons in each area of the court and some world class talent.
“We need to do the things that we do really well but also be mindful of how we counteract them.
“It’s going to be a great learning opportunity to test ourselves against the best and see how they match-up.
“This will be our best challenge yet, there’s no question about that. For us it’s about embracing the challenge and embracing the opportunity and seeing how our youngsters stack up against some of the best players in the league.”
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