On 17 August 2016, Sunshine Coast’s sporting landscape changed forever with the announcement that the region’s first-ever national, professional side would be established as part of the newly formed Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) league. Sunshine Coast Lightning was born.
The unique joint venture between NRL Club, Melbourne Storm and University of the Sunshine Coast (USC) has reaped rewards as both groups have played critical roles in bringing to life Sunshine Coast Lightning Netball Club.
Part-owner, USC is widely recognised as one of Australia’s leading sports universities and assisted Lightning with expertise in high performance and athlete support services as well as first class training and playing facilities at its Sippy Downs campus. Sunshine Coast Council also played a crucial role to deliver the national netball team to the region. The combination of a community committed to sport and major events, an academic institution focused on elite sporting performance and one of Australia’s leading sporting clubs in the Melbourne Storm, provided Lightning with unwavering support and helped grow the strength of the Club in its first year.
Importantly, Lightning secured strong corporate backing with a group of successful international, national and local organisations committed to the Club. Sunshine Coast Council, Downer, Visit Sunshine Coast, Nissan, Samsung, Hostplus, Avid Property Group, Sunshine Coast Airport, Game Clothing and USC, as well as many important local partners all supported Lightning in its debut season.
Being the only regional team in the league was an incredible opportunity for the Sunshine Coast. The Club’s Members, fans and volunteers embraced Lightning from its establishment and shared in the pride in what it managed to achieve in a short space of time. The Club secured 2,300 foundation Members during the inaugural season and sold out all five home matches at USC Stadium.
First and foremost, Lightning was built with, and for, the local community and without it, would not have a history to begin with. To grow from simply a name and logo to a national champion in a matter of months is testament to that community buy-in. There was a concerted effort to involve the community along the way, particularly through the Club’s playing group who are all fantastic role models.
While Lightning’s on-court success is undeniable following its triumphant 17-goal Grand Final victory in June, putting the right foundations in place off-court were just as important. Lightning built its culture on the values of passion, purpose, people and having a point of difference, values which were determined by all Club personnel. Two people who were crucial to Lightning’s unique Club ethos were CEO, Danielle Smith and Head Coach, Noeline Taurua. The pair’s ability to recruit highly skilled and talented people who were passionate about building the Club’s ethos is commendable. The values and work ethic implemented are driving the group to repeat its year one heroics.