Tara Hinchliffe (Photo: Sunshine Coast Lightning)

Defender Tara Hinchliffe has swapped the purple of the Queensland Firebirds for the blue and yellow of the Sunshine Coast Lightning.

Defender Tara Hinchliffe has swapped allegiances in Queensland, with the Sunshine Coast Lightning today confirming her signing. For all the Suncorp Super Netball signing news, stay up to date with our Off-Season Hub and follow The Inner Sanctum’s netball podcast, Over a Third, on Twitter and Instagram to get the news when it breaks.

Hinchliffe was involved with the Queensland Firebirds for five years, joining the club in 2017 before making her debut in 2018.

In that time, she played 49 games for the club. She earned the club’s Spirit Award in 2019, and finished equal third in the Player of the Year award in 2020.

The 23-year-old spoke on making the switch across to the Lightning.

“I’m really excited for a new challenge, and to immerse myself within the Lightning team and culture,” Hinchliffe said.

“It was obviously a tough decision, but the opportunity to play with, and learn from, new players with different skills and international experience was hard to turn down.”

With the retirement of Maddy McAuliffe and departure of Phumza Maweni, Hinchliffe fills a spot in defence alongside re-signing Kate Shimmin.

Lightning head coach Kylee Byrne spoke on not only the skill, but leadership that Hinchliffe adds. She was named as the vice-captain of the Firebirds for the 2021 season, and joined the Diamonds development squad.

“Tara has natural talent in spades but also has a reputation as a real hard worker and I believe she will really benefit from our Lightning program in years to come,” Byrne said.

“Despite being just 23 years of age, Tara has shown real maturity and leadership both out on court and in how she presents herself generally and we can’t wait to see what she can produce next season as part of the Lightning team.”

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Before the Round 10 clash between the Firebirds and the Lightning in the 2021 season, Hinchliffe was struck down with an ACL injury.

It came amidst injuries to young shooter Tippah Dwan and veteran head Romelda Aiken, putting a roadblock in the Firebirds finals hope.

Already familiar with the going ons of the Lightning through twin sister Maddie, looking for the best place to rehabilitate her injury factored into the decision.

“The unique experience of my first ‘major’ injury gave me time to reflect on my four years with the Firebirds, and how I could reenergise myself and my netball and chatting to Kylee made me really excited about new possibilities up the Coast,” Hinchliffe said.

“I’ve also watched [my twin] Maddie thrive at Lightning – the way she talks about the culture, the girls, the coaches and performance staff, was a big reason why I chose to sign with this club.”

The Lightning have now filled three list spots, Hinchliffe joining Kate Shimmin and inaugural shooter Cara Koenen. There are now seven spots remaining.

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