One year anniversary worth celebrating

On 17 August 2016, Sunshine Coast’s sporting landscape changed forever with the announcement that the region’s first national, professional side would be established as part of the newly formed Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) league.

Fast forward 12 months and the Coast community now has an Australian champion after Sunshine Coast Lightning overcame the country’s top seven teams to claim the maiden SSN premiership in emphatic fashion at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre in June.

The unique joint venture between NRL Club, Melbourne Storm and University of the Sunshine Coast (USC) has reaped rewards as both groups have played critical roles in bringing to life this extraordinary netball Club.

Establishing an elite sports organisation didn’t happen overnight however. An abundance of time and effort from industrious people went in to making a dream like this a reality.

Lightning secured strong corporate backing with a group of successful international, national and local organisations committed to the Club. Sunshine Coast Council, Downer, Visit Sunshine Coast, Nissan, Samsung, Hostplus, Avid Property Group, Sunshine Coast Airport, Game Clothing and USC, as well as a number of important local partners all supported Lightning in its debut season.

Part-owner, USC is widely recognised as one of Australia’s leading sports universities and assisted Lightning with expertise in high performance and athlete support services as well as first class training and playing facilities at its Sippy Downs campus.

Sunshine Coast Council also played a crucial role to deliver the national netball team to the region. The combination of a community committed to sport and major events, an academic institution focused on elite sporting performance and one of Australia’s leading sporting clubs in the Melbourne Storm, provided Lightning with unwavering support and helped grow the strength of the Club in its first year.

Being the only regional team in the league was an incredible opportunity for the Sunshine Coast. The Club’s members, fans and volunteers embraced Lightning from its establishment and shared in the pride in what it managed to achieve in a short space of time. The Club secured 2,300 foundation members during the inaugural season and sold out all five home matches at USC Stadium.

“It is pleasing to see the positive impact Lightning has made in the first 12 months, not only in the netball fraternity, but the Coast community at large,” Lightning CEO, Danielle Smith said.

“We made a concerted effort to involve the community along the way, particularly through our playing group who are all fantastic role models.

“First and foremost, Lightning was built with, and for, the local community and without it, would not have a history to begin with. To grow from simply a name and logo to a national champion in a matter of months is testament to that community buy-in.”

While the on-court success is undeniable, putting the right foundations in place off-court were just as important. Lightning built its culture on the values of passion, purpose, people and having a point of difference, values which were determined by all Club personnel. Two people who were crucial to Lightning’s unique Club ethos were Smith and Head Coach, Noeline Taurua. The pair’s ability to recruit highly skilled and talented people who were passionate about building the Club’s ethos is commendable. The values and work ethic implemented are driving the group to repeat its year one heroics.

Milestone moments:

1 August 2016: Noeline Taurua appointed Head Coach

17 August 2016: Launch of Club’s name and brand

16 September 2016: Danielle Smith appointed Chief Executive Officer

22 September 2016: First player signings announced (Steph Wood & Caitlin Bassett)

27 September 2016: Entire Lightning squad announced

3 November 2016: Pre-season commences

5 December 2016: Memberships go on sale

15 December 2016: Lightning dress unveiled

14 January 2017: First ever practice match vs NSW Swifts (win)

10 February 2017: USC Stadium redevelopment completed

15 February 2017: Geva Mentor announced as inaugural captain

17 February 2017: SCC Mayor, Mark Jamieson becomes number one ticket holder

18 February 2017: Round 1 Suncorp Super Netball vs QLD Firebirds (draw)

22 February 2017: 2,000 foundation members achieved

23 February 2017: Mascot, Lucy Lightning unveiled

26 February 2017: First home match at USC Stadium

19 April 2017: The Hon. Jackie Trad MP named Sunshine Coast Lightning’s inaugural Patron

3 June 2017: Major Semi-Final win (Melbourne Vixens) to claim Grand Final hosting rights

17 June 2017: Grand Final victory (GIANTS Netball). Inaugural Super Netball champion

18 June 2017: Lightning handed the key to the city by Sunshine Coast Mayor, Mark Jamieson

23 June 2017: Gala Awards night. Geva Mentor named Player of the Year

4 July 2017: Entire Lightning squad re-signed for 2018 season