Laura Rudland of Celtic Dragons. Pic: Getty Images.

Laura Rudland Urges Cardiff Dragons To Rock The House For Final Time

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By Graham Thomas

Cardiff Dragons goal attack Laura Rudland has urged her team to provide a memorable farewell to fans at the House of Sport in Cardiff when they host Loughborough Lightning on Saturday.

The match is the Dragons’ last at the venue this season, before they switch to the bigger Utilita Arena in the capital for their final two home games.

The move is part of the club’s strategy to try and increase their fan base in tandem with changes in the Netball Superleague aimed at growing the sport more broadly.

“We realised this week that our home game is the last one we will have at the House of Sport this season and we want to leave on a positive note,” said Rudland.

“I think it shows just how much the sport is moving forward, We used to play at the Sport Wales building, then we moved to House of Sport because it had  a bigger capacity, and now we are going to a bigger venue again.

“Quite a few games this season have been sell-outs and I know there have been people looking for tickets and we just haven’t had the space.

“The Utlita Arena gives the us the opportunity for a lot more people to come along and support us, which is really exciting.”

The current House of Sport venue, located near to the Cardiff City Stadium, has a capacity for netball of around 1,100 seats – 500 more than the Dragons’ old home venue at the Sport Wales National Centre  in Sophia Gardens.

At the new Utilita Arena, – where the Dragons will host Leeds Rhinos and Team Bath in June – the Dragons can double their current capacity to around 2,000 fans.

Before then, the Dragons have three matches  – away fixtures at London Pulse and Saracens Mavericks, preceded by the home game against second-placed Lightning.

Having started the season well enough to threaten to gatecrash the top four, the Dragons have slipped back after a run of one draw and three defeats in their last four matches.

That sequence has seen them drop to eighth, but the mid-table positions are congested and they are only four points behind fifth-placed Surrey Storm.

“We had a really good start, since then there have probably been a couple of games we have really been disappointed with,” added Redland.

“I think these last five games are about re-focusing and getting from them as much as we can in term of our own goals.

“This year, the mindset has shifted massively. We have come away from games thinking we should have won and feeling frustrated, instead of thinking that was the normal way of things just because a team was above us in the table.

“We know Loughborough are going to be really tough to play against. They are in the top four for a reason, but we proved against Manchester Thunder last week that we can compete with these teams for one or two quarters, but we  need to do that for a full 60 minutes.”

Lightning lost to leaders Thunder, 61-57 a fortnight ago, but were 69-41 winners over the Dragons in their home fixture at the start of April.

Rudland combines her time as a Dragon with her job as head of netball at Exeter University, a position she took up  last August.

That has  meant a head-to-head earlier with her Dragons teammate and Wales captain, Nia Jones, who is in charge of Cardiff University, in a BUCS fixture.

“Nia won’t like me saying it, but we beat them,” added Rudland.

“We have a really good group, but I’m still finding my feet a little bit and concentrating on our recruitment so that we can get some more talented people to come and play netball for the uni.

“I am really enjoying and what’s really nicer about university netball is that it fits that one step away from professional netball, with lost of support and coaching sessions.

“Whatever happens in the future of Superleague, I think the links with university netball are going to remain strong.”

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