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Harriet Sanderson

Versatile Nia Jones’ insight is propelling Severn Stars’ prodigy Harriet Sanderson to the Vitality Super League big time.

Leckhampton star Sanderson, 19, is currently in the Severn Stars academy and works closely under the auspices of first-team vice-captain Jones.

Jones, 29, also represents Wales at international football and is blazing a sporting trail for Sanderson to follow.

The academy ace has loved being a sponge to Jones’ knowledge and reckons her off-court influence will be critical in hauling her towards the first-team.

Sanderson said: “Nia Jones is somebody I really look up to.

“She’s the vice-captain and she’s such an integral part of the team both on and off the court. I mainly look up to her for her actions off the court, just because she’s so inspirational, encouraging, a rock at training and is there to lighten the mood.

“If she can tell that some of us are down, she’s always cracking jokes. She messages us after training to check in and things like that.

“I would say I know her quite well off the court – we all get to training early and we train multiple times a week, so we get used to each other.

“Last season I went to all the Super League training squad’s sessions. I’ve been in and out through lockdown.

“I really want to play in the Super League for a franchise and just keep playing to the best of my ability – and to the highest level there is.”

Sanderson turned 19 last month and is supported by an innovative partnership between Entain – owner of Ladbrokes and Coral – and leading sports charity SportsAid.

The funding enables her access to training, travel and equipment and certainly comes in handy as she juggles her sports career with a Physiotherapy Degree at the University of Birmingham.

She’s racking up plenty of miles on the M5 as she travels to and from training and says Entain and SportsAid’s funding came at the perfect time.

“It’s helpful and so important,” she added.

“It was such a relief when I saw the money come through – I get through at least £30 of petrol a week, and being a student away from my family, I’ve had to take much more responsibility for my costs.

“It means that while I’m stressing about getting to different places, at least I don’t have to worry about the money aspect of things and I can be more comfortable and relaxed. It takes away a lot of stress from me.”