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Toner's injury could present fellow Warriors ace Magee with a chance to make her Rhinos debut

 

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Opportunity knocks: Michelle Magee in line for bow in Superleague

Opportunity knocks: Michelle Magee in line for bow in Superleague

Opportunity knocks: Michelle Magee in line for bow in Superleague

Michelle Magee is in line for her first taste of British SuperLeague netball action this weekend on the back of an injury to fellow Northern Ireland defender Fionnuala Toner.

Leeds Rhinos co-captain Toner damaged her achilles during Monday night's defeat to Saracens Mavericks but her misfortune is set to have a silver lining for Magee.

The young Belfast woman, who turned 21 last month, didn't make Dan Ryan's matchday squad for the new Yorkshire franchise's first two fixtures in SuperLeague.

Rhinos supremo Ryan, who doubles up as Northern Ireland head coach, understandably kept an unchanged team after the impressive 65-35 victory over Celtic Dragons.

However, his side suffered remarkable misfortune on their next outing three days later, losing three key players to injury in a catastrophic first half against Mavericks.

Ryan had to watch helplessly as his star shooter, compatriot Donnell Wallam, was forced off along with Kiwi goalkeeper Tuaine Keenan and Northern Ireland vice-captain Toner.

The decimated Rhinos showed huge character and fought hard to the end but were eventually edged out 43-39, with a proud but beleagured Ryan left to count the cost.

Perhaps seen in advance as a wildcard who Ryan was taking a punt on, Wallam was a revelation in the opening game and already looks like an inspired signing.

However, she suffered a freak injury, sustaining a fractured radius when her arm hit her knee chasing a ball off court, and the towering forward underwent surgery on Tuesday.

Toner may be back in a month but, with Keenan also sidelined for the immediate future, Magee will certainly come into the matchday squad tomorrow.

That might have meant Michelle marking her big sister Emma on her first SuperLeague appearance, but injury has scuppered that possible sibling battle.

Storm forward Emma Magee may be sidelined for six weeks after tearing ankle ligaments just four minutes into her own SuperLeague debut last weekend against London Pulse.

So while there will be two Northern Ireland internationals missing when Storm meet Rhinos at noon tomorrow, the Warriors will still be well represented on the day.

As well as Michelle Magee being on the bench for Rhinos, Northern Ireland defender Niamh Cooper should get a third consecutive start for their opponents.

The 28-year-old doctor from Belfast was excellent as Storm edged a tight derby battle against Pulse 42-20, doing a great marking job on Jamaican star Adean Thomas.

Playing a second game in 26 hours, Storm were beaten 53-41 by a fresher Mavericks side the following day so, like the Rhinos, have followed a win with a loss so far.

In tomorrow's final fixture (6.00pm), the only two teams to have played just once on the opening long weekend will clash, with two NI Warriors potentially facing each other in mid-court.

Northern Ireland captain Caroline O'Hanlon started in champions Manchester Thunder's opening win over Strathclyde Sirens while Michelle Drayne came on for Pulse against Storm.

Belfast Telegraph


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