Leeds Rhinos Netball chief Dan Ryan trains sights on Vitality Superleague’s big five

Dan Ryan has challenged his Leeds Rhinos players to take the scalp of a few of the Vitality Superleague’s ‘powerhouses’ in the second half of the domestic netball season.

By Nick Westby
Saturday, 17th April 2021, 6:00 am
Co-captain Fi Toner is back in action. Picture: Ben Lumley.
Co-captain Fi Toner is back in action. Picture: Ben Lumley.

The league newcomers sit plum in mid-table in their first season as a Superleague club, an outcome that fills their Australian head coach with great pride.

But the fact they have only beaten the five teams below them, and none of the five teams above them, gives Ryan the perfect motivating tool for the second half of the season.

The play-offs – for which the top four teams qualify – appear out of reach, not that Ryan is a coach who likes to set his players target.

Donnell Wallam of Leeds Rhinos takes a shot during the Vitality Netball Superleague round 1 match between Celtic Dragons and Leeds Rhinos at Studio 001 on February 12, 2021 Picture: Jan Kruger/Getty Images for Vitality Netball Superleague.

If performances improve, the philosophy he is imparting into the Rhinos squad he helped build, is that outcomes will by a bi-product of that.

“We know we’ve got a playing style, a game plan and an ability to really challenge the five teams that sit above us,” said Ryan, who this week relinsquished his other role with the Northern Ireland national team to allow him to spend more time with his family back in Australia.

“Now we’ve seen all the teams in the competition and we know what we’re capable of, it’s really a question of can we improve our performance the second time around?

“We haven’t beaten any of the five teams above us and we’re certainly keen to do that as best we can, but we know we need to make some gains in our game to get there because it is quite a big challenge, but we’re certainly up for it.

Leeds Rhinos netball head coach Dan Ryan. Picture: Tony Johnson.

“We got very close to a couple of teams that we played in those top-five positions and if our intention is to be better second time around – and also make sure we can keep winning the games we’ve been capable of winning in previous matches – then it’s possible.

“We’re certainly looking to steal a few wins off the powerhouse sides, but our main focus needs to be improving our performance to do that.”

On the way his team has applied themselves in the first half of the season, Ryan added: “I think we’ve done a really commendable job. To be smack, bang in the middle of the table is quite respectable on many fronts when you consider what we have faced as a group, being without three of our key starting players (Donnell Wallam, Fi Toner and Tuaine Keenan) for the majority of the season so to have them back there now in the fold, and to have the had opportunity to build some depth within the squad by giving gametime to youngsters who may not have had as much exposure if those injured players hadn’t had time away, has been vital.

“Certainly, we’ve achieved a lot in the first 10 weeks of the competition and we’re really looking forward to seeing what we can do second half of the season.

“We know exaclty where we’re at and what we’re capable of and we know exactly where we want to get to.”

Netball Superleague takes a break this weekend with Rhinos back in action on Sunday week against Saracen Mavericks.

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