The Vitality Roses coaching team of Jess Thirlby, Sonia Mkoloma, Olivia Murphy and Liana Leota

The Vitality Roses coaching team (from L to R): Jess Thirlby, Sonia Mkoloma, Olivia Murphy and Liana Leota

Three new members have been welcomed to the Vitality Roses coaching team with Sonia Mkoloma, Olivia Murphy and Liana Leota all joining Head Coach Jess Thirlby.  

Mkoloma has been appointed as the full-time Vitality Roses Assistant Coach, and both Murphy and Leota join as Vitality Roses Technical Coaches. 

As the countdown to the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham next summer begins, the appointments bring huge experience and netball DNA to the heart of the off-court team supporting the Vitality Roses as they look to repeat history on home soil. 

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Mkoloma joins having spent 15 years of her playing career representing the Vitality Roses, in which time she amassed an incredible 123 international test caps. On the international stage the London native competed in five Netball World Cups and three Commonwealth Games. 

The last seven seasons of her playing career were in New Zealand and Australia competing in the ANZ Championship for Central Pulse, Canterbury Tactics and the NSW Swifts, before she transitioned to an off-court role as U19 NSW National state team Assistant Coach in 2015, then onto a Technical Coach for the NSW Swifts helping them to win the Suncorp Grand final in 2019 where Vitality Roses Natalie Haythornthwaite and Helen Housby ply their trade. 

Mkoloma’s first experience with the Vitality Roses’ coaching team began when she was appointed England Netball Assistant Coach for a development tour in October 2019 to Australia and New Zealand, and as part of the coaching team for the UK-based 2020 Vitality Netball Nations Cup.  

Murphy joins the England coaching team having amassed 95 caps across 15 years playing internationally for Englandwith six years spent as senior captain. With over 20 years coaching experience, Murphy has helped ready players on the developmental pathway to their international careers as England Netball Technical Coach for the U17 age group since 2014 and at many a club setting including Loughborough Lightning where she is currently the Vitality Netball Superleague side’s Assistant Coach.  

As a Technical Coach for England Netball, Murphy will play a pivotal role in developing and preparing the Roses players for those challenges by delivering expert coaching and support on training camps and in competitive series. 

Leota began her netball career in her native New Zealand and spent 13 years captaining numerous teams participating in the ANZ Championships. Her time with the Silver Ferns on the international stage ran alongside her club career in the Southern Hemisphere, having debuted back in 2003 for New Zealand U21s earning 41 caps.  

Vitality Netball Superleague fans will know Leota well for her time representing Manchester Thunder before joining Severn Stars in 2019 where she is team captain. 

Like Murphy, Leota will be providing technical and tactical support to the Roses players, to bring tactical plays to life on court and allow the team to challenge at the highest level. Murphy and Leota both take on technical coaching roles that will see them working with the team in camps and competitions in a part time capacity.  

All three coaching additions are experienced medal-winners at multiple Commonwealth Games and Netball World Cups, they will all work with the Vitality Roses until post the 2023 Netball World Cup. 

Jess Thirlby, Vitality Roses Head Coach, said: “If you know netball, you know Liv, Sonia and Liana. Their passion and collective experience from playing and coaching at the highest level over many years in multiple high-performance environments across the world will be a huge asset for the Roses as we prepare for Birmingham 2022.  

I’m so excited about what they will bring to our team. Liv was my captain when I first got into the England team, we played at the Manchester Commonwealth Games together in 2002, and we also worked together with the England A and England U21 teams in 2013, as well as at Team Bath for a season and most recently with the Roses. Sonia and I played together through many England age groups and at senior level, making appearances together at the World Youth Cup back in 2002.  

Liana is well known within the netball community and beyond as a World class athlete with huge knowledge of New Zealand having competed and won honours for them over a long period of time. I first met Liana when I went on a coaching placement to ANZ team Southern Steel and I played against her when she was a part of the Silver Ferns. It was clear then what an incredible athlete Liana was and how she inspired others too. She always wants to share her knowledge of the game and has been doing so for many years whilst still performing herself. 

We’re very much looking forward to having them join us in our first England camp this summer. Theare World class in their own right and the dynamic they will add to our environment, to me and team will be invaluable. I also want to acknowledge and thank England Netball for their continued support and investing in this pioneering Roses coaching team, demonstrating the importance and impact that great coaching can have on a team with the ambition that we do as Roses. 

Sonia Mkoloma, Vitality Roses Assistant Coach, added: “The last few weeks have been a rollercoaster of emotions. I am excited about the prospect of working with Jess and the Vitality Roses team and look forward to seeing what we can create. England Netball has been a big part of my playing journey and as this new chapter starts, I’grabbing it with both hands. 

Vitality Roses Technical Coach, Olivia Murphy said: “It’s a privilege and an honour to be involved with the Roses in this role. With the netball season firmly underway it has been a great showcase for the athletes but also for me to start to look at ways to help them develop. Ultimately, I’m so excited to work with the talented staff and players and cannot wait to get started! 

Liana Leota, Vitality Roses Technical Coach, added: “I am honoured to have the opportunity to be involved in international netball again and am looking forward to working with one of the World’s best teams. My transition from player to coach is what excites me as does the challenge of working in an elite sporting environment and contributing to the growth of the Roses.” 

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