By: Netball Australia

After a big loss last week, the Sunshine Coast Lightning had hopes of regaining some confidence and putting a win next to their name. However, the likes of the young Adelaide Thunderbirds had other plans.

The game began with a flurry of errors, centre pass missteps, poor passes, and some defenders hungry for the ball. Both teams traded turnovers, but it was the Lightning who fell behind as they couldn’t convert from their centre pass. Whereas the Thunderbirds not only managed to convert theirs but were then able to take advantage of any intercepts on defence.

With Steph Fretwell playing on restricted minutes, Reilley Batcheldor was into the starting line-up, however, she was met by Matilda Garrett who utilised her strong build to make her uncomfortable and win ball.

The long-distance shooters Batcheldor and Fretwell were on for the Power 5 but were only able to make the one two-point goal. The Lightning ended the quarter down by 11 goals.

The second quarter saw a better output for the Lightning, starting with a confident block by Ashleigh Ervin where her team were able to win the ball. Both defenders hunted the ball as a tactic to prevent the ball from getting into the consistent GS, Romelda Aiken-George.

This quarter, Fretwell was put on earlier, but it was the likes of Cara Koenen who stood up, her baseline drives earning her the ball. After a time out – the Lightning were able to reduce the margin to nine goals and their zone defence was doing its job by slowing down the Thunderbirds’ offence. Despite still trailing, it was surprising to see the Lightning opt for only singles rather than the super shot. This meant they ended the first half facing the same deficit as they did in the previous quarter, down 11 goals thanks to a last-second super shot by Fretwell.

After the half-time break, teams were in a hurry to get going, thus resulting in an erratic phase of play featuring multiple wayward passes.

Georgie Horjus
Georgie Horjus traded the midcourt for the goals.

Despite a promising first term, Lauren Frew had a wobbly start which led to a sub and Georgie Horjus coming in as GA. The goalers were handed another shake-up when Aiken-George accidentally called for an injury timeout and had to go off herself, thus handing Lucy Austin the reigns as GS. A flurry of subs saw a very different look on court and unfortunately, this saw their margin falter and allowed the Lightning to get back in the game.

Consequently, Aiken-George and Frew were put back into the game but could do little with the momentum that the Lightning carried. Fretwell began to get hot from super shot land despite the Thunderbirds trying to keep the ball out of her hands. Thunderbirds maintain their lead with three goals the margin.

With the game back up for contention, the Thunderbirds were facing an in-momentum Lightning team with their home crowd behind them. Despite the building pressure, they showed poise and maturity in the controlled way they played their game.

The age-old combination of Fretwell and Koenen showed off some excellent connection which put them down by just one goal. At the other end, Aiken-George’s accuracy was beginning to decrease, as she missed some easy shots under the ring.

She then committed an offensive contact which saw the Lightning with the chance to tie the game, however, they turned the ball back over – a recurring theme for them this game.

In a controversial finish to the game, Liz Watson appeared to grab the ball out of Lauren Frew’s hands in the midcourt with no call being made and the likes of Batcheldor left alone under their ring. Her final goal meant we were headed to overtime.

There seemed to be some level of confusion for both teams, neither remembering the rules of the overtime period. The Lightning was late to realising that the super shot was in play for the entirety of the overtime period, and the Thunder forgot there were two five-minute halves.

Steph Fretwell
Steph Fretwell’s ankle injury didn’t stop her from nailing super shots.

Fretwell took advantage of the super shot, nailing multiple to put her team within reach, but the Thunderbirds showed no fear, Frew maintaining composure and Aiken-George regaining her rhythm, happy to settle for the singles.

The Thunderbirds held on, winning by four goals.

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