Steph Wood in action for the Lightning last weekend

Steph Wood in action for the Lightning last weekend. Credit: Suncorp Super Netball - Twitter

The Sunshine Coast Lightning have relocated to Melbourne this week to allow the Super Netball season to continue amid COVID-19 border closures.

Border closures have forced the Sunshine Coast Lightning to relocate to Melbourne to keep the Super Netball season going. The Lightning are living in a hub for the first time, after being one of the few teams not required to do so last year.

Cara Koenen and coach Kylee Byrne spoke to the media about the experience of rapid travel and the relocation for an indefinite period.

Koenen is a Magnetic Island native, and was concerned for her family, and particularly her grandmother, as well as the whole Magnetic Island community after the possible exposure last weekend.

Moving at the Speed of Lightning

Bryne explained the mad rush to get down to Melbourne and started off with a phrase that will familiar to all those in lockdown.

“It already seems like it was so long ago. About lunchtime [on Tuesday] we got a call saying ‘pack your bags and go’,” Byrne said.

At that time, the Lightning didn’t have any other information, and everyone had to pack a single bag and be ready by 5 pm on the bus to Brisbane to connect to the flight to Melbourne.

“The way everyone handled it, from a club perspective, we had to be very conscious that these are people’s lives, people have families, people have other jobs,” Byrne explained.

Byrne took the time to thank all those at the Lightning, including strength and conditioning coaches and commercial staff, some of whom have travelled on short notice with the group.

She also thanked the netball community around Australia, and the Vixens and the Magpies who have reportedly reached out to provide assistance with training, care and other logistic support.

Ready for the Weekend

With all the frantic arrangements for borders and travel, Byrne hasn’t forgotten that it’s a business trip for the Lightning, and they intend to be in the business of winning netball matches.

We will try and keep it as normal as possible, with our routine preparation for matches,” Byrne explained. “Everything as normal as possible, and the group has been amazing.”

Koenen explained that the players have been under biosecurity precautions for several weeks to ensure that there would be a few hiccups as possible in this eventuality.

The players and coaches are sticking to a bubble, and are not fazed by the ongoing requirements to keep the competition running smoothly, in adherence with health advice.

“We’re being as responsible as we possibly can, we don’t want to put the competition at risk, and we love the sport,” Koenen explained.

“We’re doing all that we can to ensure that on the weekend we can get out and play a good match.”

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Byrne noted that all preparations were still in full swing, ahead of the clash with the Vixens this Saturday, and that the Vixens have also had a disrupted few weeks.

“They’ll get to play in front of a home crowd hopefully.” Byrne said.

“I hope that the Victorians come out in droves and support this match.”

“It’s about turning our attention away from what’s happened, and how we’ve got here and know that we do have a match and we want to hold the position that we’re in,” Byrne said.

Full Club effort

Despite the speed at which all the parts were moving for the Lightning, everything was highly organised and had been as smooth as possible so far.

“We’re very lucky, within the community, and within the sport, people know what we’re going through, and are willing to do anything,” Byrne said.

“We are still waiting on a lot of detail, and we don’t quite know what’s coming up.”

“We’ve travelling with 11 players, and at the moment they’re the ones that have been in our squad, and when we left we didn’t know if it was going to be condensed seasons.”

The Lightning have brought a small staff team with the playing group, to keep the day to day things running.

“We’ve got eight staff with us. It’s pretty much the group that works on a daily basis with us,” Byrne said.

“Knowing how many pieces are moving in the background, we did bring with us some backup commercial staff, because there is so much logistically behind the scenes that needs work.”

Byrne credited the learnings of other Super Netball teams for providing that advice, after their experiences away from home last year.

“Our crew back in Queensland are working tirelessly to support us in any way and keep the club and competition going. In the end, the players have to play, and I have to get on with coaching. So having people in that background just makes such a difference, and the other teams actually gave me that tip,” Byrne said.  

The Lightning clash with the Vixens on Saturday at 3pm at John Cain Arena.

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