Lightning Boast Defensive Versatility In 2021

Sunshine Coast Lightning teased a potent new defensive combination in Ashlee Unie and Kate Shimmin in Thursday’s practice match against the Queensland Firebirds.

The pair took to the court for the first time together in the trial match and immediately made an impact.

Local Sunshine Coast product Unie, who was promoted to the senior list in 2021 after a long-serving apprenticeship as Training Partner, is not taking the added responsibility lightly.

The 24-year-old has been working tirelessly throughout the pre-season with a focus on building her combination with Shimmin while internationals Karla Pretorius and Phumza Maweni are still abroad.

“Obviously I’m looking for consistency before we head into the season but there are foundations that we can build on,” Unie said.

“It was the first time I’ve played with Kate Shimmin, so we were trying to figure out how each other moves – figuring that out for future games.

“Without [South African players Karla Pretorius and Phumza Maweni], we were a bit short on numbers in the circle, so Kate and I really got the opportunity to develop that combination.”

The versatility that Lightning possesses in that area of the court will be a point of difference from the 2020 side and could prove highly dangerous.

With two months to continue developing connections and combinations, Unie is excited to see how each player can play their role and compliment the team moving forward.

“We are still focusing on the basics – what structures are we running, how can we swap between the different ones and what works best for us,” she said.

“Kate and I are hoping to really solidify our connection so we have more options when the [South African players] do come back – in saying that of course we can’t wait to see them.”

The output from both Unie and Shimmin impressed Head Coach Kylee Byrne who acknowledges that their combination will only strengthen and mature with time.

“I think both of them provided so much movement. For the opposition, when you have those two hunting you have to be very careful what you do with the ball,” Byrne said.

“It’s just firming that combination and instead of them both going for the same ball, is there a balance of what we’re playing – is it a one on one or who is going for what ball.

“That will come.”

Lightning have been hard at work during pre-season and Unie said that while the sessions have been tough, this is the time of year to make physical gains that will benefit the athletes in the year ahead.

“We’re ticking all the boxes, we’ve been monitoring our load and our fatigue but pre-season isn’t about feeling fresh all the time,” Unie said.

“You’re going to be hammered and you’re going to be tired sometimes, but I think we are dealing with it well.”