Future bright for evolving Lightning

Via Super Netball 



As mind-blowing as it sounds Suncorp Super Netball premiers Sunshine Coast Lightning are grooming a midcourter they believe is a hybrid of two of the sport’s modern champions.

Though she has a long journey ahead to match the achievements of Silver Ferns great Langman and the Diamonds’ three-time world champion Corletto, Madeline McAuliffe is giving the Queensland club reason to believe they have a rare gem.

After all, she spent 2017 studying Langman while the Kiwi steered the Sunshine Coast to a stunning maiden title.

They even share the same netball – and academic – intellect that can unravel the most complex situations.

Then there’s that wicked blend of size, speed, power and agility that made Corletto a nightmare opponent.

“In testing she’s top two in everything,” Lightning assistant coach Kylee Byrne said.

“She’s the closest thing I’ve seen, in terms of natural ability, to Julie Corletto.”

And it’s a sign of the club’s evolution that McAuliffe will be given opportunities to run the team from centre this season.

Rather than hand the keys back to returning star Langman, McAuliffe will be trusted to drive a new attacking combination led by Diamonds goaler Stephanie Wood.

“Laura and Maddy are very similar. They want to know the how and the why, and you could see Maddy apply that tactical knowledge last year when Laura stepped aside,” Byrne said.

“Her potential is huge. She has that ability to find space, to find the edge of the circle.

“She has natural attacking ability so (it’s time to) give it a crack.”

McAuliffe’s point of difference from other centres is her height.

At 180cm, the 24-year-old is comfortably taller than any other centre she would be likely to face.

And that means plenty when bigger, stronger bodies are needed to own the corridor into the attacking circle.

McAuliffe would be horrified to think she was being compared to Langman or Corletto.

“I don’t feel like an experienced campaigner,” the Bachelor of Law/Business student said.

She tasted snippets of court time at wing defence in 2017 while learning from Langman.

Last year was a period of further development, and at times she was used at centre in a midcourt blessed with the compact but lively presence of Laura Scherian and Kelsey Browne.

McAuliffe cites last summer’s extended pre-season as one of the main reasons behind her improvement.

The Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games meant McAuliffe and other domestic players devoted valuable, extra weeks to build power in the gym.

“It’s not an athlete’s favourite time of the season,” she said.

“But it was a blessing in disguise for me because I had the time to work on those physical attributes.

“I wouldn’t call myself a gym junky but I’m really enjoying it because you get to see the improvements.”

The Lightning’s first chance to test new combinations in the post-Caitlin Bassett/Geva Mentor/Kelsey Browne era will be against Collingwood in Glenorchy, Tasmania, on February 1.

While Ugandan Peace Proscovia and South Africa’s Phumza Maweni seem like-for-like replacements for Bassett and Mentor, the Lightning are striving for contrast.

“We can’t be the Lightning of old,” Byrne said.