Harmony off the court is feeding contentment on it for Mahalia Cassidy as she adjusts to a new role at the sharp end of Sunshine Coast Lightning’s defence.
While she was too humble to dwell on individual praise, Cassidy’s outstanding performance at wing defence was a major reason behind Lightning’s upset victory against Suncorp Super Netball leaders the Melbourne Vixens in Round 5.
Her taming of Vixens and Diamonds wing attack Liz Watson, combined with equally impressive shut down jobs from Maddie Hinchliffe, Kate Walsh and Tara Hinchliffe, laid a platform for the win.
That result had been building for Lightning. They had shown passages of it but had been unable to combine a full 60 minutes of excellence during the first four rounds.
At the heart of the improvement was Cassidy who looks strong, happy and healthy in her second season with Lightning.
She credits much of her form to the perspective provided by her part-time work as an occupational therapist and the emotional support from her three-year-old spoodle Poppy.
Poppy helped the 26-year-old through her second knee reconstruction in 2019 and has been by the midcourter’s side ever since, while having an outlet away from netball has been a rewarding counterbalance.
“It’s been a difficult time in aged care the last few years and there’s been some challenges,” Cassidy said.
“It puts everything in perspective. When netball starts the pressure steepens and you can feel a bit of stress.
“But the sun always rises and it’s nice to have a job outside netball.
“I pride myself on having balance in my life and it’s so nice to be at the coast doing what I do and having my family nearby.”
Cassidy played all her age group netball as a centre and most of her 60 national league games in the key role.
This season she has played an increasing portion of games at wing defence.
In interviews she identified herself as a defender but it remains unclear whether the switch will be permanent.
“It’s still a little foreign to me,” she said of playing wing defence. “I’ll play wherever but if you’d have told me two years ago I’d be playing wing defence I’d have laughed.
“Being a centre, there’s still a defensive element to it but it’s a little different to actually playing at wing defence.”
That one-on-one accountability that helped deliver the win against the Vixens will be equally important when Lightning hit the road again to face the NSW Swifts on Saturday.
A win for either team could place them inside the top four.
The Swifts are building a fierce defensive combination and Cassidy is preparing for a contest with either Paige Hadley or in-form wing attack Maddy Proud.
“It certainly doesn’t get any easier,” Cassidy said.
“Every year the games just get harder and more physical.”