21/02/2024

Cara Koenen and Steph Wood are two of three shooters from the Sunshine Coast Lightning to be selected in the Diamonds squad. Photo: Sunshine Coast Lightning - Twitter

Three shooters from the Australian Diamonds squad draw from connection to the Sunshine Coast Lightning, which will prove invaluable on court.

There must be something in the water at the Sunshine Coast Lightning, or at least in the goal circle, as generations collide for the Australian Diamonds squad for 2021/2022.

In a team full of stars, it is fitting that a big chunk of the Diamonds’ shooting circle has the past, present and future of the Sunshine Coast Lightning all in one squad.

Caitlin Bassett was one of the first signings for the Lightning when they formed, along with Steph Wood. In their first two years, Bassett scored 1357 goals in two dominant seasons, both of which resulted in premierships for the Lightning.

Bassett’s outstanding performance in the goal circle and her coordination with Steph Wood kept a young Cara Koenen limited to relief duty in those early years, and once Bassett left the Lightning, Koenen stepped into her sizeable shoes in a big way.

In the three seasons since, and particularly 2020 and 2021, Wood and Koenen have formed a dynamic partnership on the court.  The duo’s dazzling movement, keeping defenders off-kilter at all times, has attracted the attention of the Diamonds selectors, as both have been selected for the squad for the upcoming season.

Wood missed the 2020 Diamonds Squad but has otherwise been a mainstay since 2017 when she made her debut for the Diamonds against South Africa. Koenen made her Diamonds debut in the squad that Wood missed, as part of the 2021 Constellation Cup earlier in the year.

Bassett has also been selected, after a strong season for the Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic in 2021. After shooting 474 goals at 92 per cent accuracy, Bassett will fit right back in with the Diamonds.

Koenen has been looking forward to reuniting with her former shooting mentor since the squad was announced.

“I’m really looking forward to seeing her again, she’s spent a bit of time across the ditch, so I’m really looking forward to getting her back on Australian soil, and catching up as friends, as much as I’m looking forward to being out on court with her again.”

When Koenen started in Super Netball, she was behind Bassett and Wood at the Lightning and honed her game from watching the two shooters out on court.

“I was looking at her and Steph, and how I was able to incorporate different aspects of their game into my own,” she said.

“I learned so much from Caitlin, she had such a big hand in my development here at Lightning,” the current Lightning shooter said.

“I owe Caitlin a lot, and she has been such an incredible leader in that Diamonds group, and one of the most experienced in the group as well.”

But Bassett’s experience isn’t limited to her 100 Diamonds appearances, or her Commonwealth Games and Netball World Championships medals.

This year, playing for the Magic in the ANZ Premiership, she’s had first-hand experience with the defenders the Silver Ferns will be rolling out for the Constellation Cup.

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While much of the focus has been on the changes that the Suncorp Super Netball, with the rolling substitutions, the timeouts, and of course the Super Shot, Koenen believes that Bassett’s biggest difference will be in her ANZ Premiership experience this season.

“I think it will be awesome having Caitlin, having come up against all of those Kiwi defenders throughout the year, week in and week out, that’s going to give us some incredible insight, and I know she’ll come into the camp, and she’ll be more than willing to share all of that with us,” the incumbent Lightning star said.

“She’s got a very unique perspective and probably a situation that a lot of Australian netballers haven’t been in before, and I think that’s something that she’ll definitely be using to her advantage, and will bring that into the team as well.”

Between Bassett’s inside knowledge, and the chemistry that exists between the trio of Lightning stars, hopes will be high for the Diamonds to reclaim the Constellation Cup this season, as they look forward to the Commonwealth Games next year as well.

The Diamonds will take on the Silver Ferns in October, in a four-match series to decide the Constellation Cup for the 12th time. The Sunshine Coast Lightning, with Wood and Koenen, will commence their 2021 Suncorp Super Netball campaign on Saturday against the West Coast Fever.

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