There is no reason to suggest Sunshine Coast Lightning won’t be back in contention, but will Lightning strike for a third time in the SSN?
What to Expect
For the first time in Suncorp Super Netball history, the Sunshine Coast Lightning missed the grand final last season.
Although they finished second on the ladder, they had the lowest percentage of the top four, only beat one of their finals rivals once during the season (the Swifts in round 4) and were bundled out in straight sets convincingly.
The task of rebounding will be made even more difficult with two key pillars in Laura Langman and Jacqui Russell announcing their retirements at the end of the season. Steph Wood had knee surgery during the off-season and has dealt with a fair share of niggles as well, so she may be slow to get back to her best this season.
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The Lightning have recruited well, signing Kate Shimmin from the Adelaide Thunderbirds, and Mahalia Cassidy from the Queensland Firebirds.
Cassidy will have big shoes to fill in Langman’s position in the centre, while Shimmin will link up with Karla Pretorius and Phumza Maweni in the back court.
To fill the retired Langman’s shoes, Karla Pretorius has been promoted to the captaincy, original Lightning player Steph Wood appointed her vice captain.
Coach Kylee Byrne remains at the helm, with Christine Voge returning as an assistant.
Perhaps the biggest signing for the Lightning this off-season has been the legendary Vicki Wilson, also as an assistant. Wilson’s experience and credentials in attack will be a major addition as the season goes on.
Biggest factor for success
There are not too many factors indicating the Lightning won’t keep their streak of finals appearances intact.
The replacement of the legendary Laura Langman in the centre position will be key if the Lightning are to be back in the final four in 2021. Mahalia Cassidy has been recruited to attempt to fill this massive hole.
Rising star Ash Unie, after earning a promotion to the main squad, suffered an ACL injury in the pre-season which has ruled her out for the year. Maddie Hinchliffe, a recent recruit to the club, has been elevated to the main squad as her injury replacement. How this recent shake-up will affect on-court performance remains to be seen.
Another key will be to start strong in every match, with the Lightning notorious tardy starters in 2020.
Ensuring they don’t have to play catch-up netball every game will be key if the Lightning are to keep it’s finals streak in 2021.
Lightning can always strike again, so don’t count them out of contention completely.
Second place (Nine wins, five losses, 99.64%) – eliminated in the Preliminary final.
Cara Koenen: (GS, GA) Madeline McAuliffe: (WD, C) Phumza Maweni: (GK, GD) Karla Pretorius: (GD, WD) Peace Proscovia: (GS) Laura Scherian: (WA, C) Stephanie Wood: (GA, WA, GS)
Binnian Hunt (GA, GS) Annabelle Lawrie (GS, GA) Sienna Allen (GK, GD)
Kate Shimmin (Adelaide Thunderbirds), Mahalia Cassidy (Queensland Firebirds), Ash Unie (promoted to main squad, but suffered an ACL injury in pre-season) Maddie Hinchliffe (training partner, then injury replacement player)
Laura Langman (retired) Jacqui Russell (retired) Annika-Lee Jones (Celtic Dragons) Ash Unie (suffered an ACL injury in pre-season)
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