Vicki Oyesola thrilled by the unity Leeds Rhinos Netball have shown in adversity

A little over a week into their existence as a competitive professional outfit, and Leeds Rhinos Netball have already faced their fair share of adversity.

Saturday, 20th February 2021, 6:30 am
FULL STRETCH: Vicki Oyesola of Leeds Rhinos tackles Sasha Corbin of Saracens Mavericks during last Monday's Superleague match. Picture: Jan Kruger/Getty Images.

So much so that the giddy high of a comprehensive opening-night victory over Celtic Dragons just eight days ago feels like a distant memory.

Since that historic occasion for professional netball in the region, Yorkshire’s standard-bearers have lost one game and four players – each setback providing a test of their resolve.

On Monday night they were beaten by Saracen Mavericks at Studio OO1 in Wakefield, but not only that they lost their star Australian import Donnell Wallam to injury.

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SETBACK: Leeds Rhinos' Aussie import Donnell Wallam has undergone surgery for a fractured radius. Picture: Jan Kruger/Getty Images.

Surgery followed on a fractured radius bone and Wallam has been ruled out indefinitely.

Fi Toner (Achilles) and Tuaine Keenan (calf) were also injured in that game and a bulletin from the club yesterday revealed: “both Toner and Keenan will be sidelined for an extended period of time, but scans cleared both of any long-term damage”.

The diagnosis was no better though for Brittany Coleman, who will have knee surgery in the coming weeks after injuring her ACL during a practice match in Manchester late last year. “The talented shooter has been ruled out for the season,” say the club.

It could all have been overwhelming for a team and a programme in the embryonic stages of their development, but there are enough sage heads in the team not to let that happen.

England Roses international Vicki Oyesola is part of a four-strong leadership group sitting underneath Toner and her Roses team-mate Jade Clarke, and alongside Brie Grierson.

Despite only being 23 she has vast experience after spending three years at Superleague mainstays Loughborough Lightning. She described Monday night as a ‘hugely challenging’ set of circumstances but was thrilled with the unity the Rhinos showed in adversity.

“It was a tough game to go through but to have that so early in the season sets us up really well going forward,” said Oyesola.

“Knowing that we’ve got each other’s backs and knowing that we’re a solid unit is going to be massive for us.”

Next up for Rhinos is a lunchtime appointment with Surrey Storm tomorrow in the bio-secure bubble in Wakefield.

They will play that game with a squad of only 10 instead of the regulation 12, due to the injuries.

“The challenge now is going to be how we respond to Monday night and how we stick together as a team,” added Oyesola ahead of the 12-noon start.

“For the girls coming in they just need to make the most of the opportunity and feel comfortable on court.

“Everyone in the team trusts in each other, we believe every player can go out and do a job.”

“Surrey have got a good shooter in the front so we’ll be looking to combat that but we’re confident we’ll be able to put out a good performance and take the game to them.

“We’ve definitely got enough in our squad to win that game.”

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