Leeds Rhinos Netball's nomadic existence good for now, but ultimately they want permanent base in Leeds
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Rhinos begin their third season in the Vitality Superleague next month still without a permanent residence.
But also in 2023 they will play ‘home’ games at Leeds Beckett University and the University of Huddersfield, taking to five the number of different home courts to get used to, and to four the number of areas to showcase the game and their club.
Former New Zealand international Leota took the reins last summer, becoming the fledgling programme’s third different head coach.
They are crying out for some stability as they seek to establish themselves in the upper echelons of professional netball’s elite tier, and with Leota, inset, having signed a three-year contract, she wants to help that process, one that will ultimately result in just one home venue.
In the meantime, continuing to grow a fanbase that last season saw nearly 1,000 people attend games in Sheffield and 4,000 attracted to Leeds Arena for a showpiece occasion, is the objective.
"I think I’m very lucky that where I grew up in New Zealand the first team I represented we covered four different areas, so it was two hours between each venue, so I got used to it," Leota told The Yorkshire Post.
"No matter where you play, if it’s a home game your supporters provide you with that sense of togetherness, so I think it’s a good challenge because it brings new people to the sport.
"Eventually we’d want a stadium here in Leeds, that’s the big dream. Ultimately any coach that has a long-term contract you definitely want that, you want to have a home court that becomes a fortress, you want teams to fear coming to play you.
"You want to know how big your crowd is going to be week in, week out, how much energy you get from the crowd. Once you get that home venue and you know how to pack it out and what works well, you can really use that to your advantage. But for now it’s about getting more bums on seats, get us a bigger, wider audience and hopefully a bigger backing.”
Rhinos play their final pre-season friendly away at Surrey Storm on Saturday, with the season opener scheduled for Saturday, February 11, against London Pulse in the big opening weekend in Nottingham.
The final two players of her squad, Elmere van der Berg and Nicola Smith, will link up with the existing 10 next week after being on international duty with South Africa.
"Once they get into camp they’re going to take a little time to get used to the team and the set-up, so we’ll implement them slowly,” said Leota.
"For me it’s more about patience than playing the longer game, than trying to go for the big gains right now that won’t really set us up to have a successful foundation later on. So small gains are key.”