Five-player selection for Vitality Roses squads validates Leeds Rhinos’ netball programme

The strength of the burgeoning Leeds Rhinos netball programme has been validated by the selection of five of their players in the Vitality Roses squads for the 2021-22 international season.

Leeds Rhinos co-captain Vicki Oyesola has retained her England Roses place. Picture: Jan Kruger/Getty Images for Vitality Netball Superleague.

Co-captain Jade Clarke and Vicki Oyesola are England Roses regulars and keep their place among the 24-strong squad but there is also a first call-up for Rhea Dixon.

And Brie Grierson and Sienna Rushton have also earned selection for the Roses Futures programme.

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Dixon’s elevation is a real boon for the Rhinos, and vindication for their processes. The 23-year-old from Surrey wasn’t even playing netball professionally last year as she took a year out to travel around Australia.

Leeds Rhinos' Jade Clarke has retained her England Roses place. Picture: Leeds Rhinos.

But her performances in helping Rhinos win eight of their first 15 matches as a Vitality Superleague team have earned her a call-up.

“I wasn’t expecting it, but I have had a few weeks to digest it. It’s all very exciting,” said Dixon, who found out two weeks and has had to keep the news to herself and close family members.

“The closer it got the more I was anticipating an email, whether it was congratulations or sorry you haven’t made it.”

Dixon will spend four days a week in Loughborough with the England Roses squad as they prepare for a busy international calendar that leads up to next summer’s Commonwealth Games when the Roses defend the title they won so thrillingly on the Gold Coast in 2018.

Leeds Rhinos' Brie Grierson has been selected for the Roses Futures programme. Picture: Simon Hulme/JPIMedia.

Jess Thirlby, Vitality Roses head coach, said: “With a limited number of spaces available in the full-time Roses programme each year and a growing pool of talent in England, competition for spots in the team is tighter than ever.

“It is brilliant to have so much talent to choose from, however it makes our jobs extremely difficult when it comes to selection.

“I am excited about this cohort of athletes and what each one of them brings to the table. The next 12 months will be vital in our preparations for the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, it’s going to be a really exciting international season for this squad and for all the Vitality Roses fans.”

Players will finish their domestic season first before joining the Roses.