New Zealand ace, Liana Leota, has signed for a second season with Severn Stars after a “bittersweet” end to last year’s campaign.

The Commonwealth Games gold medallist, who will Captain the side once again, said last season had ended just as the team had “finally found our feet” and reflected on what might have been, but is now looking ahead to the 2021 campaign.

“I feel grateful to be returning, to be able to get the opportunity to play our game when the country is in a pandemic and a lot of women and girls can’t play at all,” said Leota, who plays at both wing attack and centre. 

“Our goal this season will be to go all the way.  Last season was meant to be our benchmark season and to see where we needed to improve going forward for this season.  Some of us don’t have much longer left in our careers so I know my goal is to put in everything I can, both on and off the court, to give myself and my teammates the best opportunity we can to get there.  Our team is hardworking, everyone understands their own roles and responsibilities within our team and we are all willing to work for another.  That is the best foundation you can have going forward.”

Prior to the halting of the season due to the coronavirus, Stars had overcome the disappointment of the three opening matches, fighting back to win against local rivals Wasps. 

“The end of last season is bittersweet,” said Leota.  “After beating Wasps in our final game before lockdown we had finally found our feet as a team. If only we could have continued. I always wonder what could have been. Having another season together will give us that opportunity to pursue our goal again and continue to grow and learn as a team.

“We learnt a few lessons in our first three games of the season. We knew we needed to step up individually, connect as a team and execute our plan, we had to prove ourselves. We did that in a complete team performance against Wasps and then we didn’t have another opportunity to back that up.”

Leota said that, even as a very experienced player, she had learnt a lot from her team, both before and during the lockdown.

“Last season I was put out of my comfort zone on more than one occasion which I haven’t had to do in such a long time,” she added.  “It reminded me that I am always a student.  That there are always learnings both on and off the court.  For those that know me when it comes to netball, I am serious nearly all of the time!  This team definitely taught me that sometimes you can have fun and still learn and listen at the same time.”

Stars Head Coach, Melissa Bessell, said: “Liana is a dream to work with, as a player and a teammate. She is the total professional, on and off the court.  She is a true team player and loves to work hard to get the best result.  I am honoured as a coach to have her back representing Stars for 2021.”