THE Sunshine Coast Lightning almost made history in 2019, making it to their third consecutive grand final but falling at the last hurdle. They farewelled coaching mastermind Noeline Taurua while the future of Laura Langman is still unknown.
The Lightning were dealt a relatively big blow over the off season with star goaler and Diamonds captain, Caitlin Bassett departing the club along with Geva Mentor and Kelsey Browne. But that did not seem to faze the Lightning who established themselves as fierce competitors once more, welcoming Phumza Maweni, Peace Proscovia and the returning Langman. All three players had a profound impact with Langman providing her telltale drive and dynamic movement across the court, accompanied by her experience and match winning ability. Maweni posed a dominant threat in the defensive circle, pairing well with fellow international Karla Pretorius to send any ball that came their way back up the court and picking off a host of intercepts. The wing defence bib rotated between Maddy McAuliffe and Jacqui Russell with the pair providing good coverage and hands over pressure. Through the midcourt, speedster Laura Scherian came into her own, relishing the reduced space that allowed her to perfect her feeds into the circle and build her connection with Proscovia. The Ugandan shooter displayed her strength, holding well and bodying up to take the ball on the baseline while Steph Wood continued on her merry way with her quick hands, netball nous and footwork on full display.
Cara Koenen elevated to a whole new level throughout the latter half of the season, absorbing every bit of pressure and commanding the ball time and time again. she continuously showcased her explosiveness with both her speed and strength while her versatility was crucial for the Lightning’s finals assault. The 23-year-old shooter made the goal shooter bib her own, working with Wood and Proscovia with ease and displaying her silky footwork to drive along the baseline or sweep across the top of the circle. Her ability to read the play, get up high and have a presence whenever the ball came her way enabled her to stay in the game and cause plenty of havoc. As she grew with confidence, the goal shooter backed herself from range proving accuracy and volume was no issue.
With a couple of years under Silver Ferns coach and extraordinaire Noeline Taurua, newly appointed coach Kylee Byrne has plenty to offer when she takes the reins in 2020. Byrne has seen first-hand what it takes to match it with the best in the business and definitely has the clientele to replicate a similar outcome once again next year. She oozes experience and knowledge having been in the coaching game for the past 10 years, making her a key figure for the side going forward if they are to continue to succeed.