The Sunshine Coast Lightning team (Picture: Sunshine Coast Lightning/Twitter, Design by Will Cuckson)

Sunshine Coast came into the 2022 season as a bit of a wildcard. No one quite knew where to place them at the end of the home and away season.

The Lightning unfortunately never really got their season going. Besides back-to-back wins against the Vixens and Swifts in rounds five and six, it was a bit of a lowly season for the Sunny Coast girls.

The effort was certainly evident in each match but they could never turn that form into wins, which meant finishing at the bottom in a very tight Suncorp Super Netball season.

The Inner Sanctum explores the Lightning’s 2022 Super Netball season, in review.

What worked?

Even being a lowly season for the girls, there was still plenty of great efforts throughout the team.

The Lightning brought in former Vixens goalkeeper Kadie-Ann Dehaney to add to the defensive depth they already had.

The defence has always been such an important cog in the way Sunshine Coast play, with Kate Walsh and Tara Hinchliffe, forming a fearsome duo.

It wasn’t just their flexibility in the defensive line but across the team which Lightning fans should be impressed with. The difficulty it takes to play in multiple positions and do it well can be tricky at times, but coach Kylee Byrne was able to shuffle around her team in many different ways.

With the versatility of the players, they were able to adapt to opposing teams’ game plans a lot quicker. Therefore more credit must go to the players for working on their craft.

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

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What didn’t?

Unfortunately, it was just inconsistency within the whole team which meant that getting a string of consistent games together was a problem.

Just when it seemed to start turning around, something would occur, whether that be the performance on the court or players being down on form due to illness or injury.

Steph Wood’s season fluctuated a bit during the season, due to injury. It did look like she played under duress in some games. She is a wonderful leader and wanted to give her absolute all to get out on the court and be there for her team.

The quality that people have come to expect from the premiership days at the Lightning squad, isn’t what it was a few years ago. The lack of time to gel and create chemistry is shown by the better teams in the competition, they have played together as a group for a while, which shows on the court, demonstrated best by the Vixens and Fever.

Cohesion is a big thing in netball and can take a few years to get that as a whole squad. This year the Lightning were feeling the repercussions of that and moving forward with a very similar group of girls is only going to help.

Season Highlight

In a season filled with not too many highs, you would have to say the win against the Vixens in Round Five came as a surprise to all. The Vixens started so strong while the Lightning was the complete opposite, so no one saw it coming.

Everything clicked into gear this game and you felt as if nothing was going to go wrong all game. Cara Koenen (45/46) and Steph Wood (16/18) with (5/6) from super shot range were the key contributors.

As well as their shooters, Laura Scherian finished the game with 22 assists and really gelled with both ends throughout and gave the Lightning a very impressive and convincing win over the Vixens, 71-58.

Laura Scherian during the last year’s 2021 SSN season. (Photo: Sunshine Coast Lightning – Twitter)

Season Lowlight

During the 2022 season, it wasn’t too difficult to find a lowlight.

The Lightning suffered several losses throughout the season, but their start of the year was not how they wanted to begin. In rounds one and two, the team conceded a total of 164 goals, with a combined losing margin of 47 goals.

Sunshine Coast was unable to contain the quality shooting from the likes of Jhaniele Fowler (64/64), Donnell Wallam (45/50) and Gretel Bueta (23/25).

Team MVP

In what was a difficult season for the Lightning, it was great to see improvement from so many players.

The Sunshine Coast’s Player of the Year was won by Mahalia Cassidy. The tough mid-courter has improved her game over her last few seasons with the Lightning.

Cassidy took on a new role with the team this year, playing the wing defence position.

She had predominantly been a centre player throughout her career, but she got out of her comfort zone and did a lot of work off the court to make sure she was ready for the new challenge.

Mahalia Cassidy will be looking to go two from two for her new club this weekend
Mahalia Cassidy took home the Player of the Year award for season 2022. (Photo: sunshinecoastlightning.com.au)

Rising Star

The Lightning had the chance to blood some wonderful young players throughout the season. The one that stood out and had to prove herself early on was young shooter Reilley Batcheldor.

There would’ve been plenty of pressure on the 21-year-old, as she was backing up an all Diamonds shooting circle in captain Steph Wood and shooter Cara Koenen.

Known as a long-range shooter, Batcheldor was thrown into many tough situations where she had to make some two-point shots to get her team back on track.

Batcheldor finished the season fifth in the two-point shot category, proving that she is already one of the best long-range shooters in the Suncorp Super Netball.

All Lightning fans should be very excited about what she can produce, moving forward into the 2023 Suncorp Super Netball season.

Batchelor went from strength to strength in season 2022 for the Sunshine Coast Lightning. (@sc_lightning – Twitter)

Moving Forward

There won’t be too much change in the Lightning squad for the 2023 season.

The one change saw Maddie Hinchliffe, sister of current Lightning vice-captain Tara, not be offered a contract. She was picked up by the Collingwood Magpies for their squad of 10 next season as midcourt cover off the bench.

The one inclusion that everyone is very excited about is the return of goal defence Karla Pretorius, which will be a significant inclusion. Pretorius missed last year’s season, after announcing that she was pregnant a few months out from the start of last season.

The team should certainly improve going into next year, as Pretorius will bring back experience and toughness on the defensive end, where the Lightning is already really strong.

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