The talking is almost over for Jade Clarke as Leeds Rhinos Netball prepare to break new ground with a first appearance in the Vitality Netball Superleague.
Clarke – England’s most-capped player – will spearhead the challenge of the league’s newest side, ready to go toe-to-toe with the country’s very best.
The Rhinos are involved in the 2021 season curtain-raiser on Friday night, facing off against Celtic Dragons at Studio 001 in Wakefield, live on Sky Sports Main Event from 4.45pm.
With every game this season broadcast live on Sky Sports, a nationwide audience can enjoy all the thrills and spills that the new campaign will bring – one Clarke feels will be as tight as ever.
“We’re just so excited to get going, and it’s a huge honour to be the first game up and we hope everyone is going to be watching,” the Rhinos co-captain said.
“All the games are going to be live on TV or on YouTube, and it’s amazing.
“It’s really something to celebrate for the netball community and we hope we can bring some joy and some entertainment to all the netball fans out there.
“I think this season is going to be so competitive, we’ve seen a few girls who have played professionally in Australia return to England, including Beth Cobden for Loughborough Lightning and Layla Guscoth for Bath.
“We’ve seen the standards rise so much in the last couple of years, now you don’t know who is going to beat who and that’s exactly what a good league should be like.
“It’s going to be a rollercoaster ride and I can’t wait to get going with the girls.”
With more than 150 international caps and an unforgettable Commonwealth gold medal to her name, Clarke is among a plethora of high-profile stars looking to make her mark, with a wealth of talent on show for all teams.
Whether it is Liana Leota producing the goods for Severn Stars, or Vitality Roses icon Serena Guthrie taking charge for Team Bath, there will be no shortage of drama as the action comes thick and fast in 2021.
As the new kids on the block, Clarke is revelling in life with her new teammates, with decorated Australian coach Dan Ryan putting them through their paces during the offseason.
“It’s nice because we had no placing last year so we go in with no expectations,” Clarke said.
“We’ve got some great names, we’ve got [England’s] Vicki Oyesola at the back, and a goal shooter who’s come over from Australia – Donnell Wallam – it’s a really young team and we’ve got talent across the team.
“Dan Ryan has been so creative and so passionate, he gives everyone loads of confidence and he creates a great team culture that we’re all contributing to.
“It’s going to be special for him in the first game, and special for us all to be part of Leeds Rhinos history.
“I absolutely love coming up against other Roses players, when you’re so close to people there’s no holds barred, you just absolutely go for it.
“We’re all so competitive with each other and we’re out to prove a point. We support each other but we’re also competitive as well.”
But as much as anything, Clarke is just eager to get back out on court again and give netball fans all over the world a spectacle to enjoy.
That wouldn’t be possible without a huge effort from the netball family, with everyone playing their part to drive the game forward together to help the sport and help the league Rise. As One.
“I’d encourage everyone to watch because there’s nothing more exciting than a really close netball game where it’s going goal for goal,” the Vitality Roses star said.
“It’s been a huge effort from the netball family to keep netball going. Last year during lockdown the netball community were posting videos of workouts and training on social media.
“Everyone involved with the Vitality Netball Superleague and England Netball have worked so quickly to get netball back on our screens, and to make it safe for the players to compete again.
“We want to be role models and we want people to see us, and in turn they’ll go out and play netball and get active, which is what it’s all about, we want to have a legacy.”
The Vitality Netball Superleague will return on 12 February 2021 and you can follow the action with all games being shown live on Sky Sports. Visit netballsl.com or follow @netballsl on Twitter and Instagram for more information.