Mahalia Cassidy and Cara Koenen will both reach 50 games of National League Netball when the Sunshine Coast Lightning take on the West Coast Fever on Saturday night.
While each of the Queenslanders have taken a different route to get there, they will be celebrating their milestone match together.
The two played representative and junior netball together, but then went in different directions once they reached the top level. This was until 2021 serendipitously brought Cassidy and Koenen back together.
Koenen has been with the Lightning since the foundation of the club and made her debut in 2017, the Lightning’s inaugural season. In 2019, she rose to prominence after the departure of Caitlin Bassett, and cemented her place as the shooter of the future for the Lightning.
She enjoyed a breakout season last year, and was named in the 2020 Team of the Year as a reserve shooter, then made her Diamonds debut in early 2021. She was named MVP of the match in her second game, and has returned to the Lightning at a new level.
Koenen is one of the form shooters of the competition this year, with the fifth most goals, scoring 317 at 90% accuracy.
Cassidy’s journey has been more disrupted, with injures playing a bit part. In 2015, breaking out into the big time, Cassidy was playing with the Queensland Firebirds. She had two serious knee injuries in 2017 and 2019, which slowed her progress.
At the end of the 2020 season, Cassidy made the switch to the Sunshine Coast Lightning. While she was initially brought in to fill the hole left by Laura Langman, she has seen it as a different opportunity.
“I never really saw it as replacing Laura Langman,” Cassidy said.
”You never can replace someone as high calibre as she is, my thing was to come in and bring what I had to the table.”
Cassidy has thrived in the role, and has found a comfortable spot back among familiar faces.
“It’s been really great connecting with some of the other Queenslanders I played with when I was younger, its been a full circle moment,” she explained.
“I’m thoroughly enjoying being part of the team, and also enjoying the netball we’re putting out there.”
Ever humble, Cassidy reflected on the achievement of making it to the milestone.
“It’s a milestone I didn’t think I would ever make, so it’s cool to reflect on that this week and it’s another game to me.”
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One of the Lightning’s hallmarks is the versatility that players are showing, with the ability to play in multiple positions on the court and build chemistry in different combinations.
For Cassidy, she’s taken her game to a new level in wing defence this season, drawing on her experience playing centre previously.
“I’m loving the challenge of playing wing defence,” Cassidy said.
“It’s a bit crazy, I always felt I didn’t have a strong defensive game as a centre, but I felt like coming in to the Lightning this year, and they have such a strong defensive end, I’ve learned a lot.”
Cassidy has certainly enjoyed the reunion, and is playing some of the best netball of her career.
Along with Koenen, the milestone stars have played high quality netball, and have the Lightning sitting second on the ladder heading into the clash against the Fever.
The Sunshine Coast Lightning play the West Coast Fever at 8:00pm on Saturday night in Round 10 of the Suncorp Super Netball.
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