New faces on the court and the sideline highlight the squads named on Wednesday by the Sunshine Coast Lightning and Queensland Firebirds for Saturday’s sold out inaugural Suncorp Spirit Cup in Mackay.
Several players on both sides will be making their first appearances for the Clubs at Mackay Multisport Stadium, in a modified format game which will run across five 10-minute periods and feature extended squads.
Both Clubs will also be led by new coaches for the first time in the clash, with Belinda Reynolds at the helm of Lightning following her appointment in October and Bec Bulley to take the reins of the Firebirds after taking on the role in August.
Lightning will travel with several fresh faces including emerging shooter Charlie Bell, who was selected as a Firebirds Training Partner for the 2023 season before securing a temporary replacement player contract with Lightning.
“Charlie has adapted well to the move to the Sunshine Coast and has shown great commitment to her training. This will be the first opportunity we get to look at Charlie in combination with Steph [Wood] and Cara [Koenen] and I’m looking forward to the variety this will bring to our team,” Reynolds said.
Australian Diamonds Steph Wood and Cara Koenen will re-join the team after successful Diamonds campaigns, along with Australian Fast5 representative Tara Hinchliffe who is in fine form after recently captaining the winning side.
“It has been so good to have Steph, Cara and Tara back in our training environment. They have all represented our country exceptionally well and I can’t wait to have their experience, leadership and energy back on court with us this weekend,” Reynolds said.
The match will provide Lightning’s full squad of training partners the opportunity to take the court in Lightning colours, including newcomers Leilani Rohweder and Martina Reekers.
After suffering from a ruptured ACL in August, Reilley Batcheldor is continuing her rehabilitation and will travel with the team to Mackay.
“We are excited for this trip to Mackay as it gives a chance for our entire squad to connect on the road together as well as providing a great opportunity for our training partners to take the court against another SSN team. I’m looking forward to the match providing further insight into the direction for the program as well as the growth opportunity for our developing athletes,” Reynolds said.
“Reilley’s rehab is going exceptionally well, and we are keeping her nice and busy and connected to the team.”
The Firebirds meanwhile will have shooters Lauren Frew and Emily Moore travel with their extended squad.
Frew, an Australian 21U squad member, and NSW-based Moore have been trialing with the Firebirds for the past month in pursuit of a possible opportunity in the team.
“We’ve been having a close look at both Lauren and Emily since the start of November,” Bulley said.
“Both are ambitious and talented players and it will be exciting to see them in action in Purple against Suncorp Super Netball opposition.”
Star midcourter Gabi Simpson will travel but won’t play in Saturday’s game as she continues her recovery from a minor ankle injury sustained recently in training.
Saturday’s match will also offer 2023 newcomers Ashlee Unie – a former Lightning player – and defender Remi Kamo their first appearance on court for the Firebirds.
“This game is early in our pre-season preparations but gives us an excellent opportunity to test ourselves and what we’ve been practicing against high-quality opposition,” Bulley said.
“We can’t wait to get out in front of a bumper Mackay crowd and give North Queensland netball fans an evening they won’t forget.”
Saturday’s match begins with centre pass from 7pm AEST.
SUNCORP SPIRIT CUP SQUADS
Sunshine Coast Lightning: Steph Wood, Cara Koenen, Laura Scherian, Mahalia Cassidy, Kadie-Ann Dehaney, Tara Hinchliffe, Annie Miller, Charlie Bell, Ava Black, Bridey Condren, Leilani Rohweder, Martina Reekers.
Queensland Firebirds: Kim Ravaillion, Lara Dunkley, Macy Gardner, Donnell Wallam, Ruby Bakewell-Doran, Mia Stower, Remi Kamo, Ashlee Unie, Hulita Veve, Ash Ervin, Leesa Mi Mi, Lauren Frew, Emily Moore.