Will the Lightning continue their success in season 2022? (Photo: Suncorp Super Netball/Twitter)

Can the Sunshine Coast Lightning continue their stellar run since their inception and challenge for another championship in 2022?

The Sunshine Coast Lightning have made a name for themselves as a team that performs and is always challenging for the title at the end of the season. Will they have that same success in the 2022 season?

Last season:

In 2021, the Lightning found themselves fourth at the end of home and away season, facing off in the minor semi-final against the West Coast Fever. Star shooter Jhaniele Fowler proved too strong as she ended the Lightning’s season, well short of their goal.

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What’s made waves in the pre-season?

The Lightning had a very up and down Team Girls Cup. The team has changed a bit across all lines, which has had opposition trying to work out how to best play the Lightning this coming season.

The player that benefitted most has been midcourter Laura Scherian, who was outstanding in the Team Girls Cup, being the glue that held the mid-court together. 

Sunshine Coast has had a bit of a shake-up coming into the season, with arguably its best player Karla Pretorius missing the season, due to the exciting announcement of her being pregnant. 

She will leave a huge whole in the defensive unit, as she’s been a constant since the inception of the Lightning. Her South African teammate, Phumza Maweni has also moved on from the team after taking on a position at Team Bath Netball in the VNSL.

Karla Pretorius will miss 2022. (Photo: Sunshine Coast Lightning)

The team has gone out and sourced two very good defenders to replenish the stocks by signing former Vixen Kadie-Ann Dehaney and up and coming player Tara Hinchliffe. Alongside Kim Jenner, Hinchliffe made a formidable unit down the highway at the Queensland Firebirds.

Tara has joined the team and created a family vibe, with sister Maddie a Lightning training partner before she was announced as Pretorius’ replacement.

Tara Hinchliffe is coming off an ACL tear and will look to take a careful and cautious approach coming into the season, but will hopefully be ready to go early.

Tara Hinchliffe joins the Sunshine Coast Lightning for 2022. (Photo: Sunshine Coast Lightning)

What needs to change?

The biggest thing for the Lightning this season to progress further than the minor semi-final, is their use of the super shot. The Sunshine Coast shooters struggled from long range during the season, and would try and win the game the traditional way.

When Steph Wood was ‘on’ she was able to knock these shots down. Her partner in crime Cara Koenen isn’t known for her long range shooting, and this sometimes limited the team to just take the ones in the crucial parts of the quarters. 

Sunshine Coast has looked to right these wrongs and signed a third shooter by the name of Reilley Batcheldor, who was a part of the Firebirds set-up last season.

She brings long shooting and great movement in the circle as well as her flexibility to roll into both positions in the circle. Look forward to watching what she has to offer the team.

Cara Koenen has signed on with the Sunshine Coast Lightning until the end of 2023.
Cara Koenen has signed on with the Sunshine Coast Lightning until the end of 2023. (Image: Sunshine Coast Lightning/Twitter)

Who’s in for a big season?

With a few new faces at the Lightning this season there’s going to be an importance on leadership.

While there are a number of big names in the squad, the one that sticks out is Mahalia Cassidy. The tough midcourter is ready to break out this season. 

She fluctuates between both the centre and wing defence position, and she will give a lot of quality centres and wing attacks a very hard time throughout the season. Her performance will go a long way to making the Lightning a team to beat.

The games that matter:

Round 1 vs West Coast Fever @ RAC Arena 

It’s a return to where the season ended for the Lightning last year, as they will be looking to right the wrongs of last year’s campaign with a win in Round 1.

Round 7 vs Giants Netball @ USC Stadium

The two teams have developed a rivalry over the years, and this will be their first meeting of the season. Regardless of which players are playing, this contest always has plenty of physicality and toughness about it. 

Round 11 – Queensland Firebirds @ Nissan Arena

The derby between the state rivals always has plenty of fire to it. But the return of former player Tara Hinchliffe will certainly create a stir on court, especially with that home crowd right behind their team. 

Ladder prediction:

The new pieces acquired by the Lightning will lead them to a fairly similar season to last, and they’ll finish in fourth position by season’s end.

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