'Consistency and composure' needed of Leeds Rhinos Netball or season will be over, warns Liana Leota

Liana Leota has warned her Leeds Rhinos players the next three games will decide the destiny of their Super League season.
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The Rhinos’ director of netball refused to sugarcoat the second sluggish start to a season under her tenure after she was left angry that Leeds let a result slip from their grasp in losing narrowly to London Pulse in Hull last Friday night.

The defeat was their fifth in six games, leaving them already facing a mountain to climb to reach the top four and qualify for the play-offs with a third of the season now elapsed.

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Last year Rhinos made an even poorer start, drawing only one of their opening nine games in the first round of fixtures before rallying in the second half of the season to secure a respectable finish.

Leeds Rhinos director of netball Liana Leota is demanding more ahead of visit of Surrey Storm. (Picture: Tom Pearson Photography)Leeds Rhinos director of netball Liana Leota is demanding more ahead of visit of Surrey Storm. (Picture: Tom Pearson Photography)
Leeds Rhinos director of netball Liana Leota is demanding more ahead of visit of Surrey Storm. (Picture: Tom Pearson Photography)

There was mitigation last season, Leota’s first in the top job and the harmony of the squad hindered by imports who were due to arrive but never did.

This year there are no excuses, especially after landing the marquee signing of England Roses legend Geva Mentor.

And Leota is demanding a reaction, starting on Good Friday against Surrey Storm at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield.

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“Three more games and it’s round one done. We have to buck our ideas up now,” warned the former New Zealand international.

“That’s been our intent, to attack this week.

“If we don’t get on the scoreboard now we might not get on it at all.

“Because it’s Bath the following week in a game we should win, and then (leaders) Manchester Thunder to round off round one.

“So Storm this weekend is a middle point to say whether we’re good enough or we’re too far off.

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“What happened last weekend puts pressure on this weekend, which I don’t mind.

“The game against Pulse was there for the taking, we got so much ball and we just didn’t put it through the hoop, we just didn’t cherish the ball on attack.

“We showed plenty of fight in the last two minutes but it just leaves me asking ‘where was that fight throughout the whole game?’ It’s frustrating.

“We need to get over this hump in order to start playing well, having confidence and just believing in our structures and our game plan.”

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Mentor aside, and with Northern Ireland international Caroline O’Hanlon absent with a swollen knee, Leota is looking for girls on the court to stand up and be counted.

“We’re just not consistent,” continued Leota. “That comes from our leaders and drivers.

“It’s hard when you’ve got Geva and Shelley (Michelle Magee) down the defensive end, again we didn’t have Caroline who is usually our stalwart in attack who will have that presence and composure.

“She would have proven to be the difference.

“It’s that leadership, those smarts from game management that comes from those experienced players. When I looked on the court, other than Geva, we didn’t have that.

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“We are still growing. But that’s still not good enough. I believe we’re better than what we’re performing at.

“This next three weeks our focus has to be consistency, composure and looking after the ball.”

A home game at a happy hunting ground offers some respite.

Throughout their nomadic existence which sees them playing home games at five different venues across Yorkshire, Rhinos have had some joy playing at the EIS in Sheffield.

They’re back there on Friday (7.30pm) for the visit of Surrey Storm.

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Leota said: “For me EIS is a place where we’ve got wins and we’ve taken a few scalps so we’ve got to use that energy as a motivation.

“The crowd down there is always fantastic.”