Elle McDonald raring to go with new Rhinos teammates

The 28-year-old was not expecting to be called up for the Roses over the winter

Elle McDonald made the switch from Adelaide Thunderbirds to Leeds Rhinos in September (NAOMI BAKER)

By James Reid, Sportsbeat

Elle McDonald is relishing the chance to get started with her new Leeds Rhinos teammates after a whirlwind winter with England’s Roses.

A speculative email from the 28-year-old informed the England set-up that she was eligible, having been born in Leigh before moving to Australia at the age of eight.

But McDonald admitted she did not expect to receive the call-up, which left her little time to meet her new clubmates before an international debut arrived in January.

“Coming over to the UK, I had no expectation of getting an opportunity with the Roses,” said McDonald, who made the switch to Yorkshire from Adelaide Thunderbirds.

“I just sent an email out to make myself known and put it out there that I was born in England and all my family are English. My thinking was come over, join the Rhinos, hopefully have a really good season and see what happens from there.

“That obviously escalated a lot quicker than I thought and I got the call up to join the Roses pretty soon after signing with Rhinos.

“My first training session over here was with the Roses before they played the Uganda series. It has all been such a whirlwind and to get that debut game against Jamaica at home in front of a full crowd at the Copper Box was unbelievable.

“I was so happy at the end of the game I started tearing up which is so unlike me to do that but it was just the overwhelming feeling of being out on court playing for my country.”

New experiences on court have also come with plenty of news ones off it too as McDonald switched hemispheres.

And while the midcourter admits there has been plenty of stress, she revealed it was hard to turn down the advances of former New Zealand international Liana Leota, who assumed the helm at Rhinos in June.

“She is such a legend of our sport and I was like ‘oh my God I have just had a conversation with Liana Leota who wants me to come over and play for her!” added McDonald.

“For me, especially being a midcourter and her being such a crafty, smart player, I knew that I could learn so much from her.

“The biggest thing I have noticed is how much she values family and that’s something she is bringing to the team, and fitting within that larger Rhinos family.

“I have taken a big leap of faith coming over and it has been challenging. Initially, there is so much life admin that has to get done, as you can imagine when you move your life to the other side of the world, but everyone at the club has been really welcoming and they have gone above and beyond in making that transition really easy and seamless.”

Rhinos get their new season underway against London Pulse on Saturday, with Leota taking charge of a new look side.

Wales captain Nia Jones, Manchester Thunder duo Caroline O’Hanlon and Millie Sanders, and Kiwi shooter Ellie Bird have all arrived and McDonald cannot wait to get out on court with her mind fully focused on domestic duties.

“The vision that she [Leota] has for the club moving forward and how she envisages us playing together is really exciting to be a part of,” added McDonald.

“We don’t want to put too much pressure on ourselves because we are a new group, these things take time but round one is going to give us a good indication of where we are at and hopefully moving forward, we are going to keep building those connections and get a bit of success on the court.”

The 2023 Netball Super League season gets underway on Saturday 11 February, live on Sky Sports. Tickets to games across the season can be found at: //netballsl.com/tickets