The University of the Sunshine Coast (USC) and the Melbourne Storm Group (owners of the Melbourne Storm Rugby League Club) today announced details of a new partnership that will signal a new era for Sunshine Coast Lightning.

The Melbourne Storm Group has become the sole owner of Sunshine Coast Lightning following the decision by USC to transition from being a part-owner to a principal partner.

Lightning was established in late 2016 following a successful bid for a licence in the new Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) league by consortia partners Melbourne Storm, USC and the Sunshine Coast Council.  Upon being awarded an SSN licence, the club was formed and the Melbourne Storm Group and USC assumed the role of joint owners, with the club’s headquarters based at USC Stadium on the Sunshine Coast.

It has featured in three SSN grand finals since its inaugural season, winning back-to-back Premierships in 2017 and 2018, making it Australia’s most successful start-up national sporting team.

USC Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Helen Bartlett, said USC was proud of its role in establishing Lightning as one of the world’s top professional netball teams and the first national sporting team to be based on the Sunshine Coast.

“The University is delighted to see Lightning enter this next phase as a well-established organisation and we are proud to continue our support of the club as both a foundation principal partner and the official tertiary education partner,” Professor Bartlett said.

“This new partnership model will see USC continue to strongly invest in Lightning and its future success through community and brand alignment, while also providing access to our elite high-performance facilities.

“And, of course, we will keep cheering them on from the sidelines as Lightning continue to call our USC Stadium home.”

Melbourne Storm CEO Justin Rodski said the support of USC had been critical to setting the foundations of success for the Super Netball team.

“We know from experience at Storm that you need genuine partners with a shared vision from a very early stage if you want to have success in a highly competitive sporting market,” Rodski said.

“The complementary strengths of the Storm Group and USC were pivotal in executing what was needed in Lightning’s formative years, and now we have established that foundation we’re excited to see how the club will strengthen and evolve under the Storm Group.

“We have made clear that we want to maintain our commitment to the Sunshine Coast market, which includes our rugby league recruitment and pathways programs, and partnership with the Sunshine Coast Falcons.  The Coast has also become a ‘home away from home’ for the team over the last two COVID affected NRL seasons. Moving to sole ownership of Lightning will allow us to further leverage that connection across both elite sporting codes.

“Lightning is an integral part of the Storm Group, adding geographic and gender diversity to our unique portfolio offering, while upholding the same values around people, community and elite success.”

Under the new principal partnership, USC will have branding rights on the front and back of the Lightning team’s dress, and the club will remain based at USC Stadium.

Lightning CEO and Melbourne Storm Group board member, Danielle Smith, welcomed USC’s ongoing support of the Club.

“USC has been instrumental in our success to date. Our athletes are privileged to train at USC’s high-performance facilities, which are amongst the best in Australia, and to also have access to their high-performance expertise and research,” Smith said.

“And of course we have a unique advantage playing our home matches at USC Stadium in front of capacity crowds of passionate Lightning members and fans”.

“Lightning and USC both have a strong focus on community engagement, and that will continue to be a key pillar of our partnership.”

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