They’re fierce competitors on court but there’s nothing but appreciation from Sunshine Coast Lightning towards their Melbourne peers who have been forced to extend their stay on the Coast by 2 weeks.
The Queensland city is considered a ‘home away from home’ in recent years and Lightning players, coaches and staff have ensured the 2 teams have been warmly welcomed.
Head Coach Kylee Byrne said the team were on the same return flight as Melbourne Vixens after Round 7 and took to the opportunity to reach out.
“We flew home with the Vixens from Sydney and we certainly checked in,” Byrne said.
“It was nice to spend time with them at the airport and at this end to make sure they are well looked after.
“They know if they can’t be in Melbourne, the Coast is a place they want to be – but they are quite happy, knowing they have 2 more weeks and then hopefully will return home.
“We’ll continue reaching out, a couple are dog lovers, so our players are inviting them over to play with the dogs and go for walks on the beach.
“We’re doing what we can to make them comfortable.”
According to the Lightning Coach, Sunshine Coast co-hosting the Queensland Hub last season has removed some of the intimidation factor of USC Stadium as a home venue.
Lightning face both Collingwood Magpies and Melbourne Vixens in back-to-back fixtures in Round 8 and 9 and given they have both been training out of the venue in recent weeks, they will be well acclimated.
“The home court advantage goes out the window,” she said.
“They trained here all through the COVID hub last year – they know the venue, the coast, the training conditions perfectly, almost as well as we do.
“That’s why we will need our crowd to come along and support and make it a true home game, because they will be so familiar with everything that is going on.”
Byrne is especially wary of the Magpies clash after the bye, with the side sitting just outside of the top 4 boasting renewed confidence after a strong win against the Vixens in Round 7.
“They’re full of confidence, they’ve come off a really great win in that local Melbourne derby,” she said.
“They will want to redeem what happened in the first round when we got them.
“They are a totally different team since then – they are playing with confidence, they are letting the ball go and we will have to go and play a different style than what we put out against the GIANTS.
“This is a danger match and one we need to put away.”