Support network helps Leeds Rhinos’ Sienna Rushton fill big shoes of Donnell Wallam in Vtality Superleague

When Sienna Rushton moved up to West Yorkshire to take up her first professional contract as a netball player, the plan was to learn from the sidelines as one of the best goal attacks in the game led the Leeds Rhinos’ attack.

By Nick Westby
Saturday, 13th March 2021, 11:45 am
IN AT THE DEEP END: Leeds Rhinos' Sienna Rushton, right, in action against Celtic Dragons. Picture: Jan Kruger/Getty Images
IN AT THE DEEP END: Leeds Rhinos' Sienna Rushton, right, in action against Celtic Dragons. Picture: Jan Kruger/Getty Images

But sport is never that simple.

In the second game of the season, Rhinos big signing from Australia, Donnell Wallam, fractured her radius bone, ruling her out for an indefinite period of time. Suddenly, 19-year-old Rushton from Hertfordshire was thrust into the action.

“They are big shoes to fill, and unexpected to be happening so quickly,” admits Rushton, who played on a part-time deal with Superleague side Wasps last season. “It was a real shame for Donnell but she’s doing awesome in her rehab which is encouraging to see.

INJURY BLOW: Leeds Rhinos' Donnell Wallam takes a shot against Celtic Dragons Picture: Jan Kruger/Getty Images

“Everyone has been so supportive of me, even on the court with our goal attack Rhia Dixon and Brie Grierson and Amelia Hall at wing-attack, we’re always talking on court so I never feel alone or isolated out there.

“They are big shoes to fill, but because they are so big, the expectation is quite low on me, which is quite nice. There’s not a huge expectation on me to do what she would have been able to do.

“There’s an appreciation that I am still learning to deal with what that pressure and exposure feels like every time I step on the court.”

As goal shooter, the person responsible for scoring the points, Rushton has quickly discovered in her two games in the spotlight that there is nowhere to hide.

“It’s very obvious whether you have a good day or a bad day when you’re a shooter,” says Rushton who has tasted a victory and a defeat so far.

“There’s good days and bad days, ups and downs in everyone’s lives, but they’re really accentuated when you’re an athlete.

“(Head coach) Dan Ryan comes from a shooting background so is able to give me lots of specialist advice and help which I really appreciate.”

Next up for Rushton and the Rhinos is her old club Wasps tomorrow (6pm).

“It will be interesting to play mine and Jade Clarke’s old side,” she adds. “We know what to expect from them but with us being a new side they don’t know what to expect from us as such.”

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