By Phillip Rodda
The Sunshine Coast Lightning are preparing well ahead of their opening fixture in this year’s Suncorp Super Netball competition, which will begin in April.
The Lightning open their season on April 29 against the Giants in Sydney, a block-buster rematch of last year’s grand-final.
This season’s fixture list reads well for Lightning fans, with the team having an increased volume of home games in 2018.
The Lightning will play seven home fixtures at USC Stadium throughout this year’s campaign, with all games scheduled for Saturday or Sunday, making the games easier to attend for locals and their families.
The full Lightning roster has been completed with the recent signing of Jacqui Russell as a training partner.
Russell is a former captain of the Queensland Fusion, the feeder club to the Lightning’s rivals, the Queensland Firebirds. She joins Emma Tickner, Steph O’Brien and Binnian Hunt as the training partners for 2018.
Most of the Lightning’s successful grand-final team have been retained for this season, with the squad looking to emulate their 2017 performance.
One notable absentee however is Laura Langman, who left the sport after the conclusion of last season.
In her place is Sarahpheinna Woulf, who has been promoted from training partner to the club’s full-time squad.
At just 17 years old Woulf has a bright future in the sport and would be the first athlete in Suncorp Super Netball history to play in the competition while still attending high school.
Meanwhile, many of the more experienced members of the team are getting ready to compete for their national teams in the upcoming Commonwealth Games.
Caitlin Bassett will captain the Australian Diamonds team and will be accompanied by fellow teammate Steph Wood.
It will be a big experience for Wood who hasn’t played any Commonwealth Games or Netball World Cup matches before.
Another Lightning team member will have the opportunity to captain her own country as Geva Mentor has been called up for Team England. This will be the fifth time that Mentor has represented her country at the Games.
The Commonwealth Games netball final will be held on April 15 meaning that if the players from the Lightning make the final, they will have only two weeks to prepare for the opening fixture.
This could make things tough in the opening few rounds but as the Lightning showed last season anything is possible, even the possibility of Lightning striking twice.
The Lightning continue their pre-season this Saturday when they face-off against the Diamonds at USC Stadium on March 31.