Gold stan­dard Cham­pion Leota signs for Stars

Gloucestershire Echo - - SPORTING INDEX -

SEV­ERN Stars have signed New Zealand’s Com­mon­wealth Games gold medal­list Liana Leota for the new 2019/20 sea­son in a play­ing and coach­ing ca­pac­ity.

Leota moved from Palmer­ston North, New Zealand, to the UK with her fam­ily in 2011 and played for Manch­ester Thunder for the last four sea­sons.

An im­pres­sive in­ter­na­tional ca­reer saw her win gold with the Sil­ver Ferns at the Com­mon­wealth Games in 2010 and sil­ver in 2014, and sil­ver at the 2011 World Cham­pi­onships.

Leota, who will also be coach­ing within the Stars set-up, said she hoped to use her ex­pe­ri­ence to guide younger team­mates.

“I am re­ally ex­cited to be a part of a new fran­chise and team, and def­i­nitely ex­cited about a new chal­lenge and the po­ten­tial the team has to do big things this sea­son,” she said.

“I hope to bring all of my ex­pe­ri­ence, my skill set and cre­ativ­ity. I have been play­ing net­ball for a very long time. I have had some amaz­ing coaches, played with some of the best net­ballers in the world and played in a lot of high pres­sure matches. For me it is about pass­ing on my knowl­edge and shar­ing my ex­pe­ri­ences with those that ask or want it.

“The Stars’ de­fence re­ally im­pressed last year so I am keen to see how that can only get bet­ter for the up­com­ing sea­son,” she added. “I also love hav­ing a great un­der­stand­ing and re­la­tion­ship with my shoot­ers. They are key in or­der for me to do my job, and do it well. My in­di­vid­ual bench­mark I have for my own team goals ev­ery year is to make the top four and then any­thing af­ter that is a bonus.”

Leota said Stars’ new head coach Melissa Bes­sell, was one of the fac­tors that at­tracted her to the club.

“Be­ing able to have some­one from New Zealand, as your coach and friend, was huge,” said the 34-year-old, who plays at both wing at­tack and cen­tre.

“We also share sim­i­lar val­ues, goals and the same vision mov­ing for­ward for this team. I had Melissa as a coach for a cou­ple of years in the New Zealand Maori team.

“I loved how she says ev­ery­thing as it is, doesn’t beat around the bush, her work ethic, but also the work ethic she de­mands of her play­ers, and her pas­sion for the game.”

Bes­sell said: “This has to be one of the best sign­ings in the Vi­tal­ity Su­per­league. Liana is not only a world class ath­lete, but an amaz­ing leader with an enor­mous amount of ex­pe­ri­ence and one of the most down to earth, beau­ti­ful peo­ple in the game.

“It is so ex­cit­ing to have her play­ing for the Sev­ern Stars. She is one of the most dy­namic play­ers with an in­nate knowl­edge of the game. Her pas­sion and flair is sim­ply magic. I am so pleased to be work­ing with her in my first sea­son with Sev­ern Stars and am ex­cited for the other ath­letes to work along­side her.”

In ad­di­tion, Stars have signed Welsh in­ter­na­tion­als Nia Jones and Bethan Dyke, who join goal shooter Georgia Rowe, who has signed for a fur­ther cam­paign.

De­fender Jones has 36 caps for Wales and has been play­ing for their youth teams since she was 15.

She helped Wales to Se­nior Net­ball Eu­rope gold in 2013 and rep­re­sented her coun­try at the 2014 and 2018 Com­mon­wealth Games.

Jones and Dyke come to Stars from Celtic Dragons.

Mid-courter Dyke, 24, has 43 caps for Wales, also rep­re­sent­ing them at the 2014 and 2018 Com­mon­wealth Games and the 2015 Net­ball World Cup.

Rowe, who has 33 caps for Wales, had an im­pres­sive de­but sea­son with Stars last year.

Liana Leota has signed for Sev­ern Stars from Manch­ester Thunder

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