2022 was not the Lightning's year, finishing at the bottom of the ladder with only four wins to their name.
With a new defensive back-end and the absence of Karla Pretorius, the team had several hurdles to overcome. General inconsistency was the team's biggest issue but has appeared to come good during the preseason.
The Lightning performed well in the 2023 Team Girls Cup, just missing third place after a 38 - 39 game to the Melbourne Vixens. During the tournament, recent Diamonds debutant Tara Hinchliffe sustained an ACL injury, prompting a hurried search for a replacement.
Reilly Batcheldor is another player out with an ACL tear last August during the Australian Netball Championships. 2022 Queensland Firebirds training partner Charlie Bell has been named as her replacement, completing the shooting circle with Steph Wood and Cara Koenen.
How can they improve
After Kylee Byrne's surprise departure following the 2022 season, the Lightning are now under the direction of former West Coast Fever Assistant Coach Belinda Reynolds. Although Lightning's issues weren't primarily coaching-based, a set of fresh eyes could be just what the team needs.
Generally, the team was average stats-wise, with the exception of their total penalties, ranking the lowest of all the teams. This data suggests that their issues throughout the season were not related to lost ball. If the Lightning can continue to keep their penalties down, they will then be able to focus on their set gameplay.
In: Ashleigh Ervin (Queensland Firebirds Training Partner)
Out: Maddie Hinchliffe (Collingwood Magpies), Kate Shimmin (Retired)
Squad: Reilly Batcheldor, Charlie Bell (Replacement Player) Mahalia Cassidy, Kadie-Ann Dehaney, Tara Hinchliffe, Ashleigh Ervin, Cara Koenen, Annie Miller, Karla Pretorius, Laura Scherian, Steph Wood
Training Partners: Ava Black, Charlie Bell, Bridey Condren, Leilani Rohweder, Natalie Sligar
In 2022 the dynamic duo of Cara Koenen and Steph Wood fell short in the SSN competition. The two got their groove on during the international competitions, a relief for Sunshine Coast fans.
If the pair is able to keep up their dominance alongside their experienced mid-courters, the team should have limited issues in racking up the points, something they struggled with at times last season.
With the anticipated return of Reilley Batcheldor and the debut of new recruit Charlie Bell, the Lightning attack circle looks set for future success, and the ability to make noise in the competition this year as well.
With the introduction of new players and the return of Pretorius, the Lightning have some connections to build, particularly in the defensive end.
Kate Walsh has retired after last year, replaced by Ashleigh Ervin in the squad for the season. Kadie-Ann Dehaney also had limited court time last year, struggling behind Walsh and Hinchliffe.
With Hinchliffe out with injury, the current defensive unit has only played together during the pre-season, with no combinations tested under full SSN conditions, and no minutes logged together at the top level yet.
As Reilly Batcheldor is still out of play due to injury, there is room for Charlie Bell to get the attention of the coaching staff from both the Lightning and opposing teams.
Bell has represented her state and Australia in over the years, more recently playing for the undefeated Brisbane North Cougars Team (Sapphire Series).
Over the Team Girls Cup, Bell saw significant court time, averaging 90% with 76 goals. Throughout the tournament, she was paired with both Steph Wood and Cara Koenen in at goal attack and appeared to work well with either player.
After finishing at the bottom of the ladder in 2022, the only direction the Lightning can go is up. Based on their Team Girls Cup performance, the team is looking like they will have more success in the 2023 season.
Whilst it is likely that they will not quite make finals, they have the chance to build the team under new coaching ahead of the 2024 season. With the absence of Hinchliffe, the team will not be as strong as they could have been, but will still pose a threat to other teams.
Before you move on, why not give our Facebook page a like here. Or give our Twitter account a follow to keep up with our work here.