Gold standard Champion Leota signs for Stars
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