Lightning elevates Lutua to playing squad

Lightning Training Partner, Maria Lutua will make history tonight becoming the first Fijian athlete to play in the Suncorp Super Netball competition.

The Goal Attack is the Club’s eleventh foundation player, after earning a call-up to replace the injured Stephanie Wood who is battling a niggling knee injury.

The 27-year-old will start on the bench in what will be an emotionally-charged night.

“I am excited, blessed and honoured to be representing not only my family, but my country as a whole. Everyone at home is excited and the support has been tremendous,” Lutua said.

“Receiving my dress from (Sunshine Coast) Mayor Mark Jamieson gave me goosebumps. It has been an incredible journey to get to this point.

“I am looking forward to experiencing the atmosphere of a local derby in the Suncorp Super Netball competition and I know it is onwards and upwards from here.”

Lutua has represented the Pearls on 52 occasions, 15 of which were as Vice-Captain. It’s that experience that helped convince Lightning Coach, Noeline Taurua to pick the Fijian star.

“Playing international netball is a positive. In the cauldron that is the Brisbane Entertainment Centre in front of plenty of Firebirds’ fans, you need that experience to help handle the pressure,” Taurua said.

“It is important she’s confident and backs herself. She needs to celebrate the moment and just play, and once she gets in that frame of mind, I think she will do very well.”

Taurua said Lutua’s robust style of play will hold in her good stead for tonight’s fascinating fixture against a fearless Firebirds outfit.

“She is tough and very strong physically. That is an asset. She won’t be knocked over easily,” Taurua explained.

“Once we knew what was happening with Steph Wood, we made sure Maria prepared as well as she could.”

Countless hours on the practice court with the Coast Club’s cohort of attackers has helped combinations to gel, per Lightning Assistant Coach, Kylee Byrne.

“Maria gives us another shooting option to compliment the skills of Caitlin (Bassett) and Cara (Koenen),” Byrne said.

“Maria has vast experience at an international level. Playing at the World Championships, as well her time in the England Netball Superleague mean she’s more than capable to compete at this level.

“We are confident we can call on Maria to perform and do the job the team needs her to do.”

Tonight’s Round 1 game against Queensland Firebirds at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre begins at 7:45pm AEST.