Firebirds training partners fly to UK Superleague

Netball Queensland has congratulated Firebirds training partners Alexia Baker and Leah Middleton, who have both secured playing contracts in England’s Vitality Netball Superleague for the 2020 season.

Alexia Baker (pictured above) has been recruited by the Wasps Netball team and Leah Middleton will play for Surrey Storm.

NQ GM High Performance Richard McInnes said both players had promising careers ahead of them.

“It’s gratifying to see these young Queenslanders rise through the Netball Queensland development programs and establish themselves at the elite level.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for them both and this chapter will help them develop further as professional netball players and as people. Part of Netball Queensland’s vision is to transform lives and these contracts will do just that for these two. It will be a valuable life experience for both Alexia and Leah. I congratulate both on their successes with securing these opportunities as well as having the courage to take on the challenge of relocating to the UK,” he said.

“The goal of the High Performance program is to develop players for professional contracts and, of course, we would love all of our Queenslanders to stay and play for the Firebirds but that’s not possible. It is exciting to see these two seize upon these offers, which will give them the skills to lobby for SSN contracts in the future.

“Both players have come through our Elite Development Program and we hope this has set them up well for this challenge,” McInnes said.

Baker has been part of the Elite Development Program squad since 2016 and was named a Firebirds training partner in 2017, 2018 and 2019.

Firebirds Head Coach Roselee Jencke said Alexia Baker is a creative shooter and attacking player, having come through the NQ underage pathway and playing with the Queensland Fusion this year.

“Playing in the UK Vitality Superleague will help Lexi develop her game and further her game by playing against England’s top-tier players,” Jencke said.

Middleton has been a training partner with the Firebirds in 2019 after making some significant progress in 2018 in the EDP and Fusion programs.

“Leah has worked hard and gained valuable experience in the Firebirds training environment in 2019.  Her strength is her presence in the circle and being able to read the play to intercept the ball and disrupt the opposition play,” Jencke said.

McInnes said while it was unfortunate that all local talent couldn’t remain here in the local competition, the reality was that there were always more players than SSN contracts available.

“We are focused on building the best netball program in the world and the fact that we are now exporting our talent to play in overseas competitions means that we are creating high-quality players. This is a success for us,” he said.

Leah Middleton will play in UK Superleague in 2020.

Middleton said: “It’s been a fantastic experience being able to train with the Firebirds this year. Netball Queensland has given me many opportunities that I am extremely grateful for and that have allowed me to constantly learn from some of the best netballers around. My goal now is to take those skills and really build on them, developing my game and improving myself,” she said. “Playing for Surrey Storm is so exciting because it not only allows me to travel back to my home country but will also be a huge step in my netball career. I can’t wait to take on the challenge!”

Both athletes play for the Carina Leagues Club Tigers in the HART Sapphires Series.

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