Hunt and Van der Velden agree new deals
By Mark Stevens
Exeter Chiefs Women’s head coach Susie Appleby says she is delighted that of two of last season’s leading lights have committed their futures to the club.
Club captain Linde van der Velden, together with McKinley Hunt, are the latest names to put pen to paper on new deals at Sandy Park.
The news comes hot on the heels of recent announcements by Appleby that the American quartet of Gabby Cantora, Jennine Duncan, Rachel Johnson and Kate Zackary, along with fellow internationals Laura Delgado, Sachiko Kato and Emily Tuttosi, were also on board for the 2021/22 season.
Netherlands international van der Velden led from the front during the Devon club’s debut season in the Allianz Premier 15s division, whilst Canadian international Hunt was the leading try-scorer, claiming eight touchdowns.
Both players were influential figures in helping the Chiefs establish themselves as a rising force within the women’s game in England – and head coach Appleby is confident both will again be at the forefront of things when the new season gets underway on August 21 with a pre-season friendly against Wasps at Sandy Park.
“I’m delighted that both Linde and McKinley have re-signed for us,” said Appleby. “Both of them were fantastic for us last year and played a huge part in laying the foundations we have created.
“Linde has led her country and she naturally speaks very well, so she was an obvious choice for us when it came to picking our captain. Initially, she took a bit of convincing to take up the role, but once she did, she led things perfectly for us.
“Although she’s not from what you would call a natural rugby background, her presence – on and off the field – is huge and she’s someone who is always willing to learn and be the best she can be. Like a lot of the players who joined last season, she loves being in Exeter and this area and she just oozes positivity, which is great.
“McKinley, meanwhile, was outstanding for us and she just got better and better as the season went on. She didn’t have a pre-season with us and that in turn led to her struggling to get quote up to speed with things in the early weeks. However, by the end, she was our top try-scorer and was a real influence in out pack.
“She brings so much to the team, not just in terms of her physicality, her defending and her acceleration – which for a second row is astonishing – but she’s very intelligent and that in turn leads to her getting in some very good positions, both in attack and defence.”