Sunshine Coast Lightning has had its first pre-season hit-out this weekend against the Queensland Firebirds for the inaugural Suncorp Spirit Cup, with the Firebirds claiming the trophy.
Played in modified format in front of a sell-out crowd at Mackay Multisports Stadium, the intrastate rivals traded blows in a high-paced pre-season hit-out that defied hot and humid conditions.
Australian Diamonds Vice Captain Steph Wood did not play due to a knee niggle which saw seven contracted players and four Training Partners take the court for Lightning.
The first two periods were hotly contested with Lightning finishing two points up going into the break, but Firebirds goal attack Mia Stower came on strong in the third period, sinking multiple Suncorp Super Shots that led to an eight-goal lead to the Firebirds in the fifth period.
Despite Lightning being unable to claw back the lead, Lightning Head Coach Belinda Reynolds said she saw a lot of positives in the game which makes her excited for the season.
“We’ve only been together a very short period of time and it was good to see some of the skills we’ve worked on come into play, but also know that we’ve got a lot more we have to work on this pre-season,” she said.
New recruit Charlie Bell had a stand-out match, dominating the scoreboard in goal shooter while Australian Diamond Cara Koenen played out the front in goal attack.
“I was very impressed with Charlie’s performance and was especially impressed with her combination with Cara. We’ve got some great combinations to work with now we’ve got the two talls, and we can have Steph out of the front [in goal attack] or at the back [in goal shooter] so it’s fantastic to have those options,” Reynolds said.
“It’s my first time in Mackay and the crowd was really vocal. It was a great atmosphere for the players to get back on court. I hope the locals enjoyed it as much as we enjoyed coming up here.”
Charlie Bell said there were some nerves leading up to her first game in Lightning colours.
“It was daunting getting ready for the game but as soon as I got on court with an old teammate next to me in Remi, I felt like I was right at home. After I got that first shot away my nerves disappeared,” she said.
“I was so excited the whole day leading up to it and I just wanted to get out there and do it. It’s always been a dream of mine to play in the SSN and I’m so stoked to be at Lightning.”
The date and venue for the second staging of the Suncorp Spirit Cup is set to be announced in the near future.