On the eve of the new Suncorp Super Netball season, the Sunshine Coast Lightning have been dealt an untimely blow.

UPDATED 31 March 2021:

Sunshine Coast Lightning defender Ashlee Unie has been ruled out for the 2021 season after rupturing her ACL in the opening minutes of a trial match against GIANTS Netball in Sydney last Thursday.

Lightning’s medical team confirmed the extent of the injury after the 24-year-old underwent scans on return to the Sunshine Coast this week.

Unie was promoted to Lightning’s senior squad after three years as a Training Partner at the Club and had impressed throughout the pre-season campaign.

In a public statement, Head Coach Kylee Byrne said Unie is a resilient character and will do what is required to rehabilitate her knee and return to being the force she was on the netball court.

“Receiving a senior contract for 2021 was such reward for effort from Ash, so we were gutted as a team and as coaches to see her go down with a serious knee injury,” Byrne said.

“Ash is incredibly strong-willed and while we are heartbroken for her, I have no doubt that she will be diligent in her rehabilitation and will leave no stone unturned.

“In the meantime, our Lightning family will rally around Ash and support her as she now faces surgery and the initial stages of recovery.

“We will also look at the composition of our team to determine the type of athlete that we need to replace Ash’s role in the squad of 10 and will make those decisions in due course.”

In addition to her Lightning commitments, Unie is a practicing Physiotherapist, and her knowledge in this area will no doubt benefit her rehabilitation.

The Suncorp Super Netball season is set to begin on Saturday 1 May 2021, with Lightning taking on Collingwood Magpies in Melbourne.

EARLIER: Sunshine Coast Lightning is expected to know the injury fate of rising star Ashlee Unie early next week.

The Lightning hold grave fears for Unie after she suffered what is a suspected serious knee injury in Thursday night’s pre-season match against the Giants in Sydney.

Unie suffered the injury in the first quarter of the Lightning’s loss to the Giants and played no further part in the match.

Much to the concern of fans, Unie was visibly distraught on the bench after the incident.

Unie had been at the Lightning for three seasons as a training partner before being elevated to the main roster in the off season after breaking through for three games in 2020.

Any potential injury is an untimely blow for the Lightning, with the new Suncorp Super Netball season starting on 1 May.

A full statement from the Sunshine Coast Lightning is expected early next week.

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