Leeds Rhinos Netball’s acting boss Maggie Birkenshaw excited for the new season
Leeds Rhinos Netball are back and stronger than ever after their impressive debut season for the Vitality Netball Superleague.
Acting head coach, Maggie Birkenshaw is ready to showcase her new squad of talent at the upcoming Fast5 tournament on October 30 in London, ahead of the 2022 season.
Rhinos, who have recently signed a number of new players, have retained approximately 85 per cent of their squad which made it all the way to the grand final play-offs in 2021.
“Last season we far surpassed our expectations by ending in the grand final weekend and we want to start the new season as we ended,” said Birkenshaw, who takes up the helm after head coach Dan Ryan recently left the club to move back to Australia.
“The girls we had last season did exceptionally well and as a consequence of that, they deserve the opportunity to get back out there in the blue and gold.”
The new signings have significantly strengthened the Rhinos as they look to finish the 2022 season in the top four once again.
The addition of shooters Sigi Burger and Amy Clinton alongside defender Rebekah Airey have extended the versatility of the squad, together with new training partner, Lydia Walker, who will be central in the upcoming Fast5 tournament.
“I’m more than excited for the new season with a team that is a lovely mix of youth and experience,” said Birkenshaw.
The Fast5 tournament will take place over one day at the Copper Box Arena, London, with the top eight teams of the previous Superleague season invited to compete.
“It’s still pre-season, and we have only been together for two weeks and this is the first thing the girls will do together,” added Birkenshaw, whose team have drawn Superleague rivals Manchester Thunder in the opening round of their first ever Fast5.
“Manchester are our sisters across the M62, but it really is just about getting on court, having some fun, blowing away the cobwebs and just enjoying the event.”
Ryan’s departure has seen Birkenshaw placed into the vital position of acting head coach, but the ex-Yorkshire Jets assistant is still unsure about taking on the role full time.
“I’m in the driving seat now but that was always going to be the case,” said Birkenshaw, who will act as caretaker boss until the position is permanently filled.
“Beyond that we will see but I am more than happy to be looking after our cohort of athletes and we’ll get through the pre-season and then see what happens.”
With the excitement of Fast5 and the looming 2022 season, Birkenshaw is just happy to be able to bring netball back to the fans and to see how the Rhinos succeed.
“We’re excited to be having home and away fixtures so that we can be playing in front of home crowds again because historically we know how crazy the Yorkshire fans are and how they get behind the team,” she added.
“They are without a doubt, our eighth player.”