Steph Wood and Cara Koenen will reintegrate into the Sunshine Coast Lightning program filled with the confidence and added motivation brought about from an Australian Diamonds Quad Series win.
The pair’s performance across the four game series greatly impressed Lightning Head Coach Kylee Byrne and cemented both Wood and Koenen’s reputation as part of the netball elite.
However, Byrne still believes there’s more growth to come both in the Suncorp Super Netball season and leading into the 2022 Commonwealth Games.
When speaking of Cara, the Coach highlighted the change in roles becoming an impact player off the interchange in a number of games instead of the starting 7 spot that she is accustomed to in SSN and in last year’s Constellation Cup.
“Cara still offers that point of difference that makes her such a vital asset to that Diamonds team and we only saw a glimpse of what she is capable of in this series,” Byrne said.
“I liked that she got a run at GA as well as she is very elusive and is a different GA for defenders to contend with.
“While on court with Steph, they delivered some great netball against a very physical English defence line and she will learn a lot from this tour and work hard to be even better next time.
“For Cara, coming off the bench was something she didn’t do in 2021, so having impact when entering play is hard and something you have to learn how to do over time – At the start of a game, everyone is on the same page, fresh and mentally linked is so different to coming off the bench but Cara is more than capable of playing both roles for her team.”
A glowing endorsement of Steph followed, with the Lightning leader shouldering the responsibility of Vice Captain of the Diamonds across the series, also elevated to Captain for the New Zealand test.
“The amount of work Steph did across all matches was phenomenal, and to marry that with great accuracy for a GA that was so involved in play was very impressive,” Byrne said.
“It was her composure that stood out for me and the willingness to make the big plays that stood out – under pressure you need someone like Steph Wood on the court and it showed in the NZ game and also the final against the Roses.
“Watching her game awareness to put her hand up to take control of the momentum of the game and, in particular, having Steph do that in the attacking third is invaluable to a team.
“Adding the leadership role to her game has only made her an even bigger threat on court but perhaps it was the passion she bought to the role that I was most impressed with.
“I thought she knew the role she needed to play and executed it brilliantly in this series.
“Steph was very aware of how important Australia winning a major series is and building the reputation of the Diamonds back to being respected as the World’s number one is very important to her.”
Wood was impressive shooting 56 goals from 63 attempts, while Koenen made the most of her court time with 20 from 25.
Now they will shift perspective back to the SSN and rejoin the Lightning teammates, which Byrne believes will benefit both athletes as well as their teammates.
“With the start of the season and our pre-season games not that far away they will slip straight back into training with their Lightning team mates where they will have a chance to build on their partnership,” she said.
“While we only saw their combination together for one half out of the matches, there was still a lot to like about what they did together and of course that will only improve in the Suncorp Super Netball Season.”
Byrne also highlighted the hard work that took place back on the Sunshine Coast in the internationals.
“The Lightning athletes have picked up exactly where they left off pre-Christmas, they are working extremely hard to be in the best shape mentally and physically possible for this season while still enjoying the new energy in the team,” she said.
“Players like Mahalia Cassidy, Laura Scherian and Kate Shimmin have continued to drive standards we now can’t wait to get on the court and test out what this Lightning group is about.”