Laura Scherian of the Sunshine Coast Lightning. (Photo: Suncorp Super Netball)

With double sessions and a shortened off-season, the 2022 pre-season is set to test the Sunshine Coast Lightning and their fellow SSN sides.

Training demands are on the up at the Sunshine Coast Lightning, and across the Suncorp Super Netball competition as a whole.

It was announced last week that the 2022 edition of the competition would be beginning on March 26, brought forward to conclude in time for the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games.

Teams will have less time for pre-season training, but it’s a challenge the coaches and players are embracing.

Lightning coach Kylee Byrne has crunched the numbers, but is still in the process of figuring out how to best get her players prepared for Round 1, 2022.

“[It’s] not really about managing fatigue, but more about that gradual build towards Round 1,” Byrne told media on Friday.

“When we sat down and worked it all out, it’s about 45 days less than we would usually have. A great deal of planning had to go into [figuring out] how do we make sure we’re still ready to go Round 1 but we’ve done the work.

“Luckily for the girls, they’ve got double session days! But they’ve absolutely smashed it this week.

“We’ve had to be really planned, and there has to be a real purpose about what we’re doing this season.”

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There’s still questions to answer for the Lightning though, particularly around filling both squad and training partner spots.

The addition of both Tara Hinchliffe and Kadie-Ann Dehaney is a huge boon to the defensive end, particularly in the wake of the departure of the experienced Phumza Maweni.

Hinchliffe likely won’t feature at all in the earlier starting season after going down with an ACL injury late in 2021 with the Queensland Firebirds. With the departure of training partner and goal keeper Sienna Allen, there’s a lot of searching through pathways still to be done.

“Si [Allen] took the risk to move interstate when she got the opportunity, and she did everything she could up here,” Byrne said.

“She’s got another opportunity [with Collingwood], which suits her lifestyle and her family. We wish Sienna all the best, and I hope we do get to play against her one day.

“I’m happy with the mix of the new faces, the youth that we haven’t really had for a while here at the Lightning, but also with the core group that we’ve had here since day one.

“They’re feeling their way round it all this week, but there’s some really positive interactions that have started.”

Joining Hinchliffe and Dehaney as new players to the squad are young pathway athletes Annie Miller and Reilley Batcheldor.

Miller joins from the Giants’ training partner squad, while Batcheldor is a Queenslander through and through. She was a Firebirds training partner in 2021, but made a name for herself in the Sapphire Series as a ‘long bomb’ shooter.

Player’s perspective

Returning back for the first week of pre-season, experienced campaigner Laura Scherian is raring to take on the challenge that the shorter break brings.

A foundation Lightning player and member of the 2017 and 2018 championship squads, the midcourter is still finding new things to enjoy.

“We’re very lucky here, every year has been quite different,” Scherian said.

“[The coaches] are very aware of what we’ve done previously and how we can mix it up… what’s working, what isn’t and what we can improve on.

“I’m still loving my netball. It’s so exciting to get back with the girls.

“You get a bit older, but you get a little bit wiser in the off-season as well and what sort of work you do there. I’m feeling pretty good coming into pre-season.”

With Scherian’s strong ability to work back and support her defenders alongside Mahalia Cassidy’s pace and aggression on the ball, the Lightning midcourt is looking as strong as it ever has offensively.

The pair will make for good teachers for the young Miller, who’s primarily been developing in centre and wing attack.

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