Sunshine Coast Lightning Season Review

A disappointing end, but the Lightning will no doubt rebound. (Picture: Sunshine Coast Lightning/Twitter)

It was a disappointing finish to the season for Sunshine Coast Lightning, who were eliminated in the first week of finals for the first time in its history.

It was a disappointing finish to the season for Sunshine Coast Lightning, who were eliminated in the first week of finals for the first time in its history.

It may have been able to defeat every side at least once (except the Firebirds), including all its finals rivals, but dropped games on the run home that saw them in the minor semi-final for the first time, where it was well beaten at home by West Coast Fever.

The Inner Sanctum looks at Sunshine Coast Lightning’s 2021 Super Netball season, in review.

What worked?

A full list to choose from: Sunshine Coast was lucky for the majority of the year to have a solid starting seven with very few injuries.

This consistency helped the side to gel on the court and dominate in their preferred positions. Laura Scherian, playing in wing attack and centre, had the most centre pass receives of the league with 309, while Karla Pretorius in defence finished in the top five for intercepts with 33.

Bench depth also allowed players to be rotated in and out of games to shake things up on the court. Peace Proscovia was often one of these, scoring 16 and 21 goals respectively in the two games against Giants Netball.

On both of these occasions, all of her goals came in the second half of the match. Overall, Proscovia scored from 90% of her shots throughout the year and scored at 100% five times.

What didn’t?

The second half of the season: After a strong first half of the season that saw them equal top, the Lightning went 3-4 in the second half of the year, dropping games against the Vixens, Thunderbirds, and Firebirds, all of whom missed out on a finals berth.

Key stats that the Lightning won against the Vixens, such as intercepts, were reversed in the return match. The Thunderbirds erased some demons with their last gasp win, while the Firebirds had arguably their best win of the season against their cross-town rivals.

With the Collingwood Magpies having a strong finish to the season, these defeats left Lightning in danger of missing finals altogether and it took a desperate win over the Giants in extra time to secure their place.

More Netball Season Reviews

Collingwood Magpies Season Review: Everything coming together on the run home

Adelaide Thunderbirds Season Review: Mixed results end in seventh

Queensland Firebirds Season Review: Promising future amidst inconsistency

Season Highlight

Catching the Fever: The West Coast Fever were ruthless in their first clash in round three against the Lightning, winning by 15 goals. The Lightning were determined to square the ledger in the return clash in Round 10.

The Lightning scored 20 goals in the third quarter to set up a strong lead, and were able to hold off the Fever to win by four, their first win over the Fever since 2019.

A notable shift in the two matches were the turnover numbers, with Lightning ahead on turnovers in the round three loss (24 to 18), but the Fever having the most turnovers, (23 to 18) in their Round 10 defeat.

Season Lowlight

Not so lucky: The first time the Lightning faced the Adelaide Thunderbirds, they were able to escape with a one-goal win, thanks to some last-minute brilliance from Steph Wood at the death.

And when Wood slotted two Super Shots in the dying minutes in the return game to tie the scores, it looked like Lightning was going to strike twice, especially when Lenize Potgieter missed for the first time all game with 30 seconds to go.

But she wasn’t going to let this one slip, and coolly scored the winner with five seconds left, breaking the Lightning’s hearts.

Team MVP

Cara Koenen: You’d have to say this was Koenen’s best year yet.

After a strong Diamonds debut in the Constellation Cup, Koenen superbly played every game, finishing in the top five for goals with 517, goal attempts with 577, and offensive rebounds with 39.

With Wood returning from a knee injury that kept her out of the Constellation Cup, Koenen was able to work in tandem with her vice-captain to great effect. The duo formed a formidable combination in 2021 that saw them – at their peak – be among the best shooting combo in the league.

Koenen’s growth was clear in a debut finals performance that saw her score 33 goals against the Fever, helping to keep the pressure on going into the last quarter.

And at just 25, there’s still plenty more where that came from for Koenen, with another Diamonds run to come.

Rising Star

Binnian Hunt: One of the best examples of taking your opportunity with both hands came from Binnian Hunt.

Hunt was a training partner with the Lightning to start 2021, and by the time Round 1 came, she was in the 10 to take on the Magpies. The loss of Ash Unie with an ACL injury, and Maddie Hinchliffe with a recurring foot issue that saw her miss most of the year, gave Hunt the opportunity that she rose to throughout the season.

Against the Giants in round seven, Hunt showed what she could do, finishing with 23 feeds, nine centre pass receives, and 13 goal assists.

Later in the year, against the NSW Swifts in the final round, with Wood out with a knee complaint, Hunt was positioned at goal attack, scoring seven goals and having 19 centre pass receives, 10 feeds and nine-goal assists.

Now that the Lightning knows what she is capable of, there’s a chance Lightning fans may see more of her going forward.

Moving Forward?

The Lightning will no doubt rebound and with coach Kylee Byrne resigned for another two years, she will start work on getting the Lightning back to the final week immediately.

With Cara Koenen the first to indicate her intentions to stay, there’s no reason that the Lightning can’t be back in contention once more in 2022.

Ash Unie will hopefully be back and ready to have a decent run after her ACL injury kept her out of the season.

The Sunshine Coast Lightning, which recently celebrated its fifth anniversary, will no doubt be working towards starting the next five the same way as the first – with grand final glory.

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