The versatile centre-courter heads to Manchester from ANZ side Central Pulse. Leota, 30, was forced to assess her options following her omission from the New Zealand World Cup squad. The player, who has won 41 caps for her country, was approached by new Black and Yellows coach Dan Ryan to join the Superleague team.
Mum of three Leota, whose husband Johnny plays for Sale Sharks, is delighted to join her young family in Manchester. She said: “I was emailing with Dan after I wasn’t successful in making the Silver Ferns team for World Cup. I was convinced I wanted another year in the ANZ but after lots of discussions with my husband it worked out best for our little family to finally be together in the same country or even hemisphere – eight weeks of the year just wasn’t enough and I was missing out on so much.”
Leota says besides being closer to her family, Ryan was a ‘key’ part of her decision to join Thunder. “Dan will add something new to my game and also open my eyes to another side of my netball knowledge I have never had the opportunity to learn- the Australian style of netball,” she added.
The opportunity to play in English netball’s top flight was also too good to miss, and she joins a number of players to make the switch from the ANZ to Superleague for the 2016 season, including England players Jade Clarke and Eboni Beckford-Chambers, who have joined Loughborough Lighting and Team Bath respectively.
The Silver Fern said: “I am really looking forward to playing but a little nervous too. I can still wake up every morning and spin the ball in my hands and want to train and play. I think this will be a new path in my netball journey. Hopefully something very exciting!”
Report by Denise Evans