Sunshine Coast Lightning captain Steph Wood (Picture: Sunshine Coast Lightning/Twitter)

Coming from the West Coast Fever, new head coach Belinda Reynolds has shaken up the pre-season at the Sunshine Coast Lightning. Her captain, Steph Wood is certain that she will bring the intensity that they need to play with to become successful in the league once again.

Having 10 years of experience coaching elite-level netball programs, Belinda Reynolds comes to the Sunshine Coast Lightning after being a part of the Fever’s three grand finals appearances (and maiden premiership).

Added to this is her time as the head coach of the West Coast Fever Reserves in the Australian National Championships (ANC) and the West Coast Fever Academy. Reportedly having a focus on relationships and player wellbeing, she will be the perfect coach to take the club forward after last year’s bottom-place finish.

Her captain Steph Wood spoke exclusively to The Inner Sanctum about Reynolds and their pre-season ahead of Round One this week.

“Pre-season has been a little bit different, I mean a new coach came in [and] she has the way that she wants to coach us,” Wood told The Inner Sanctum.

“She’s given us a very distinct game plan that we want to work towards in training sessions and really test us, she wants us to train harder than what games would be [so] she really pushes us to challenge each other.

“There’s some training sessions you walk away and you can kind of [think] like ‘oh what went right [there]’ but [having] been in the league for a few years now I can understand why she’s doing what she’s doing.

“We are not quite there with the 60-minute performance but I’m proud of the game plan she’s implemented within our group as well, it’s complimentary to the players that we have but also can beat any team.”

Describing the feeling around the group ahead of the clash against the Giants, Wood says the players are ‘itching’ for the season to start.

“It’s always very exciting, in the last few weeks of pre-season you are just waiting for the fun stuff to start which is Round One, [it’s] a really good match-up for us in Round One against the Giants but a great vibe [at the Lightning].”

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Heading into the latter years of her stellar career, Wood reflects on her life after her playing career with a future in coaching on the cards as well as how far the competition has come in that time.

“I would like to play a few more years [but] I do get asked a lot about coaching when I sort of talk about life post netball where I’d go, coaching is something that I really like doing,” she said.

“I think that the biggest strength that I have is my brain, so if [I get into coaching I’d be happy] but I’d love to continue to play for a few more years now.

“I think from when I first came into the league to where it is now, I think it’s a lot more physical and there’s speed of it, [which] has just been incredible from where it was and that’s just a testament to how work us athletes put into growing this game to be better.”

As the captain of the Lightning, which has many younger and inexperienced players, Wood has taken on the role as mentor to not only the Lightning players but young players in general.

Having had Reilley Batcheldor, Tara Hinchliffe, and Annie Miller the last few seasons, as well as youngsters Charlie Bell and Ashleigh Ervin, there is a very young group coming through at the Lightning.

Wood talks about this role that she has had in their growth and how important this is for the game’s development.

“For me, I’m a little bit older and I have been in the game for longer so I do have that knowledge and I’m never gonna withhold that knowledge,” Wood explained.

“I want to pass that on because I want the younger players to be getting better and experiencing not only the training environment, but getting on court.

“I think by doing that if I can make the younger players better than that’s gonna push myself to make sure that I’m still improving because while I’ve been here for years now. I’ve still got to work so [I’m] just wanting to grow and pass on that knowledge as best as I can for the younger ones.”

With the league entering its seventh season as Suncorp Super Netball, the investment from the public has grown alongside the commitment from Foxtel and Kayo to cover the sport but also the athletes and their stories.

Wood gives her perspective on the partnership and how she sees the league building year on year.

“We are the number one female spectator sport for girls so I think that’s really great but I think last year was a massive step in the right direction for us in terms of how the comp sits,” she said.

“Every team could beat every team [and] I think every game you go to now is really tough and is a good match to watch so I think it is a really good spot that SSN is in. This year I know it will be just the same but taken to another level this year.”

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