Danielle Smith will end her long-term tenure with Melbourne Storm and Sunshine Coast Lightning after announcing she will be stepping down as CEO of Lightning at the end of the 2023 Suncorp Super Netball season. She will finish up at the end of July after spending 12 years in various executive roles with the two Storm Group clubs.
Danielle reflected on her time with both clubs.
“My time with both Sunshine Coast Lightning and Melbourne Storm has provided me with incredible career opportunities that I am extremely grateful for, particularly when Storm put their faith in me as a first-time CEO to lead Lightning as a start-up club,” Danielle said.
“There have been so many amazing highlights over the years, but I will always reflect on 2017 as one of the most special. Our passionate Lightning foundation Board, players and staff put their heart and soul into building our great club, with an army of members, fans, sponsors, suppliers, volunteers and the wider community, all joining us on the journey with equal passion, to create a special team with a wonderful club culture. That year of course culminated in a premiership win for Lightning, followed by a Storm premiership a few months later.
“With more passionate people joining us over the years, we have continued to grow the club and achieve further success on and off the court, with community always at our core.
“I will depart Lightning and the Storm Group with a heavy heart. I will miss the daily connection to all the wonderful people in and around our club, and thank them all enormously. I feel that the timing is right, the club is now well established and successful, and I’m ready to embark on my next challenge. I am incredibly proud of our club and its people, and will leave knowing that it is in a great place for the next person to make their mark and take it into the future,” Danielle said.
Danielle joined Melbourne Storm in 2011 as Chief Financial Officer where she was instrumental in the transition of ownership from News Ltd and helping to strengthen the financial position of the Club in subsequent years.
In 2014, she was appointed Storm’s Chief Operating Officer, overseeing some of the Club’s most significant investments and projects, including the SSN licence bid and subsequent establishment of Sunshine Coast Lightning, where she became the inaugural Chief Executive Officer in late 2016. She served as a Storm Board Director for eight years and its Company Secretary for 11 years.
Under Danielle’s leadership, Lightning has won back-to-back SSN premierships, reached the finals in five consecutive seasons and developed a long list of players who have represented their country in many international netball competitions.
The club has been equally successful off the court attracting a strong portfolio of sponsors, a solid membership and fan base, sell-out matches at UniSC Arena since inception, and become a leader in several key sport and entertainment industry benchmarks.
As the region’s first professional sporting team in a national competition, engaging with the local community has always been a priority for Danielle, supporting and delivering programs for and with the community that have been recognised locally and within the industry more broadly.
Danielle was inducted as a Storm Life Member in 2022 and was awarded the QSport Sports Administrator of the Year in 2021. More recently she has been appointed to the Boards of Sport Inclusion Australia and Sunshine Coast 2032, the community-led initiative designed to maximise the opportunities for the Sunshine Coast in the lead up to, during and after the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Storm Group Chairman, Matt Tripp, thanked Danielle for her enormous contribution to both Clubs.
“Danielle has made an extraordinary contribution to both Storm and Lightning, particularly in driving some of our most important strategic and financial decisions,” Tripp said.
“Danielle has always had the belief and passion to drive a successful culture for both Lightning and Storm, and without her drive, the club would not be in the strong position it is today.
“Perhaps Danielle’s most significant legacy with the Storm Group will be the success of the Sunshine Coast Lightning, leading the establishment of the start-up team in the SSN with the team winning two premierships in the club’s inaugural years and being a regular finals contender. Off the court, she has achieved strong commercial growth and has laid foundations for Lightning’s long-term future.
“We wish Danielle, Dean, Fraser and Charlotte all the best in the future. They hold a special part in the Storm family and will always be welcome back at AAMI Park and UniSC Arena.” Tripp said.
Melbourne Storm Chief Executive Officer, Justin Rodski, joined Danielle at Lightning HQ for today’s announcement.
“Danielle’s commitment and passion for Lightning has not only paved the way for growth but gives us confidence in the future direction of the club on the Sunshine Coast,” Rodski said.
“Establishing a new team in a national competition is tough at the best of times, but to win two premierships and have great success on and off the court, particularly in the face of a global pandemic, is a true reflection on the leadership Danielle has shown.
“To her credit, Danielle advised us last year that she would finish up as CEO after the 2023 season which gave us the chance to begin planning for the future. We will take the time needed to find the right person to build on the amazing work Danielle has laid down.” Rodski said.