Sunshine Coast Lightning still have some tricks up their sleeve as they enter a season-defining week that will determine if their finals dynasty extends to a sixth consecutive series.
Despite Saturday night’s 74-65 Suncorp Super Netball loss to the league-leading West Coast Fever, Lightning remains a mathematical chance of reaching the finals if they rebound against the NSW Swifts at USC Stadium on Tuesday night.
Lightning stayed in the fight against Fever, winning two quarters as both teams celebrated the inaugural Pride Game at Sippy Downs.
A messy second term cost Lightning dearly but they threw some surprises at the Fever that wrestled back some momentum in the second half.
Captain Steph Wood’s move from goal attack to wing attack, coupled with Cara Koenen’s defensive pressure at goal attack, gave hope to the home team.
In addition to shooting at 93 per cent, Koenen was a menace, collecting a team high three gains to spark the fightback.
“That’s one of the reasons we wanted her out front,” coach Kylee Byrne said of Koenen.
“Hopefully having that second position will help her with Diamonds selection but it was also effective for us to have that change-up.
“It was a good mix-up for us. A goal defence has been dealing with Steph, then we throw Cara at her and it’s totally different.
“We can’t keep throwing the same stuff at teams week after week.”
With five matches left in the regular season, finals are a possibility if Lightning win every assignment.
“But we still believe. They’ve been talking about playing freely and that’s what you saw against the Fever and something we’ll take into the Swifts,” Byrne said.
Laura Scherian, who missed the Fever game due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols, remains a chance to return against the Swifts.
Even so, she would not be expected to play a full game, leaving Byrne with the challenge of managing the workload of one of her key players ahead of Swifts game and Round 11 against the Queensland Firebirds.
Jada Gafa’s National League debut against the Fever gave Lightning an extra midcourt option to consider.
The Gold Coast product did not disappoint in her fourth-quarter cameo and could see court time again against the Swifts if Scherian is unavailable.
A knee injury delayed the 23-year-old’s elite development after shining for the Queensland under-17 and under-19 teams.
But through sheer tenacity she has re-emerged to make an impact as a Lightning training partner.
“She’s come back ready to throw everything at it,” said Byrne who coached Gafa as a teenager.