Vitality Netball Super League - Leeds Rhinos’ next-game mindset keeps ‘Clarke & Co’ on right track

England Roses veteran Jade Clarke admits to being a frequent observer of a league table but, even at the age of 37, her mindset is changing.

By Nick Westby
Friday, 7th May 2021, 4:45 am
Leeds Rhinos co-captain, Jade Clarke. Picture: Gary Longbottom/JPIMedia.
Leeds Rhinos co-captain, Jade Clarke. Picture: Gary Longbottom/JPIMedia.

The Leeds Rhinos co-captain is one of the most famous names in English netball and has helped guide Leeds Rhinos to the cusp of the play-off race in their first season of existence in the Vitality Superleague.

Three straight wins have moved Rhinos to within four points of the top four who qualify for the end-of-season play-offs.

Clarke would normally know that information like the back of her hand, but the insistence of head coach Dan Ryan to only take it one game at a time, is starting to impress upon her.

Bath's Serena Guthrie who, says Leeds Rhinos' Jade Clarke, could well be the best player in the world at the moment. Picture: Nigel French/PA Wire.

“We’re clinging on in there and I enjoy looking at the table, working out who’s got who left,” said Clarke.

“But for us, whenever we have thought too much about the end result it’s not worked out for us and we’ve become a bit too desperate.

“Dan is really good at keeping us on track. We’ve got lots of things to work on during games; he takes us through scenarios like ‘what happens if we’re two points up here, what happens if we’re five points down’.

“We’re practising being in those pressure situations. It is nice to get home after a game to have a look at the table but, when it’s game time, you just can’t think of the end result.

Leeds Rhinos head coach Dan Ryan. Picture: Tony Johnson/JPIMedia.

“For us, it just doesn’t work, it’s better when we’re in the moment and having fun.”

If they beat runaway leaders Bath on Sunday at London’s Copper Box Arena, ignoring talk of the play-offs will be harder to achieve.

“Bath is a great challenge,” said Clarke, of a team who have 13 of their 14 games.

“I might be playing against Serena Guthrie who, for me, is the best player in the world right now. We’ve got nothing to lose; it’ll be great pitting our selves against the best in the competition.

“What’s been key for us this season is not losing confidence when we’ve had a few knocks.

“We’ve learned from the setbacks and kept believing. It’s a young team, and I’m really proud of the effort and the belief in each other.

“But there’s still lots of tough matches to go.”

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