Lightning Welcome Opposition Teams To Sunshine Coast

Sunshine Coast Lightning would welcome the opportunity for their interstate opposition to temporarily relocate to the Coast, to ensure the Suncorp Super Netball season can commence next month.

CEO Danielle Smith, who is also a Board Director at Melbourne Storm, said the Storm relocation provides a perfect blueprint of how the Sunshine Coast can accommodate elite sporting franchises.

Smith and other Lightning staff have provided assistance with Storm’s relocation, as well as sharing personnel across player and commercial operations.

“As we approach Round One of the Suncorp Super Netball season there are a number of learnings we can take off competing codes – namely the agile approach required to see out a full season,” Smith said.

“If the Super Netball League follow suit and relocate teams across state borders, we have already sung the praises of the Sunshine Coast as a desirable location for both their preparation and for matches once the season commences.

“The successful relocation of Storm demonstrates the region’s ability to adapt and cater to the requirements of professional sporting franchises, within the current COVID-19 climate.”

The SSN is yet to release a fixture ahead of the Saturday 1 August start date, with the recent increased border restrictions and metropolitan lockdown creating an additional layer of uncertainty.

“We’re very conscious that things can change and as we have said throughout this whole time, you can wake up one day and everything is different,” Lightning Head Coach Kylee Byrne said.

“There’s a lot happening behind the scenes for the league to deal with to ensure that our season goes ahead and now we’ve got additional interstate border restrictions to take into consideration as well.

“Because we are a national competition, we have all states to consider not just eastern states.”

Byrne is confident the Sunshine Coast would be an appropriate location for teams, with access to elite netball and gym facilities – as well as being far removed from any active COVID-19 outbreaks.

“I hope opposing Super Netball teams consider the coast, definitely,” she said.

“Obviously we’d have to work pretty closely with the Queensland Government on what that means but we’ve got a perfect example with [Melbourne] Storm now.

“If an SSN team wanted to come here, we would be accommodating and assist as best as we can.”

Lightning’s majority owner in Storm has confirmed their next three home games will be played at Sunshine Coast Stadium, with the region providing a ‘home away from home’ for the side.

During their time at the Coast Storm has leveraged Lightning’s strong partnership with Sunshine Coast Council as well as USC, gaining access to their elite high performance gym facilities.

Smith said the two Clubs were exploring collaborative opportunities as Lightning continue to support the team where possible.

“Storm’s temporary Sunshine Coast base provides a unique opportunity for the two Clubs to tap into a number of avenues across commercial operations and high performance,” Smith said.

“We have already seen Storm utilising the state of the art gym facilities available at USC and will continue to engage Council and our partners, as well as providing the necessary staffing support.

“Subject to the COVID-19 protocols of both leagues, we will also continue to look at how we can further engage both teams and strengthen relationships across all areas of the business.”

Byrne reiterated Smith’s comments and said she was open to any collaboration opportunities that may arise in the coming months.

As Lightning prepare for the beginning of the Suncorp Super Netball season, Byrne said their focus remains on their own structures and game strategies, with the release of a partial fixture expected shortly.

The coach predicted local derbies, including a clash with Queensland Firebirds, will be among the initial fixtures released, creating a number of exciting match ups early in the 2020 season.

“The best thing a month out is we’re still focusing on us – so it doesn’t matter what opposition we hit, we’re refining what we’re doing,” she said.

“We’re right into strategies – defence and attack – so it isn’t impacting too much at the moment.

“There are so many new additions to the game that we’re trialling, so when we hit Round One it will certainly be ‘let’s get out there and play and get the job done’, but doing what best suits us and playing to our strengths.

“Whatever the season looks like we will be ready and happy to see netball back up and running again.”