There is one thing you will never see from Sunshine Coast Lightning midcourter Maddie Hinchliffe. 

Knowing that “Maddie H” never shirks a challenge, Coach Kylee Byrne asked Hinchliffe to play her first full game at centre against the Melbourne Vixens and she completed the assignment like a seasoned professional. 

It was a stunning exhibition of skill, belief and dedication on many levels. 

After all, she was recruited primarily as a wing defence and is still building her endurance after managing a foot injury last year. 

The breakthrough performance also came against Diamonds centre Kate Moloney, a week after Hinchliffe turned the ball over on seven occasions against the Adelaide Thunderbirds. 

Byrne maintained faith in the 23-year-old who was one of the drivers behind the Vixens victory that lifted the side to within reach of the top four ahead of Saturday’s Round 6 clash with the NSW Swifts. 

“She’s never played four quarters at centre,” Byrne said. “She’s such a naturally gifted runner but we had to build her up to run out a game at centre. 

“So to do what she did was impressive. And to do it under the pressure she was under and give away just the one turnover was even more impressive. 

“She was pretty down on herself in that Thunderbirds game but I told her I’d keep backing her in.” 

Maddie’s development embodies the improvement made by Lightning in the past fortnight. 

After conceding those seven turnovers in Adelaide, she has coughed up the ball only three times in her last two games – a praiseworthy demonstration of precision for a midcourter. 

And of all the centres who played in Round 5, only Jamie-Lee Price, Verity Simmons and Kim Ravaillion combined for more than Maddie’s 16 goal assists and 34 feeds. 

That is some rare air for a player who arrived this season with only two Super Netball games under her belt. 

Her attention to detail does not surprise the Head Coach who has seen the same attitude from twin sister Tara. 

“When she’s away from the court she’s always assessing her own performance – Tara is the same – analysing the opposition and continually working out ways to improve,” Byrne said. 

“And on the court she’s got white line fever more than anyone else. 

“Because she’s quiet she can fly under the radar but if you’re in a fight she’s the first one you’d want by your side.” 

After enduring three games in seven days last week the challenge now facing the Lightning is how best to recover and prepare for Saturday’s game at Ken Rosewall Arena. 

They can expect the Swifts to be refreshed after their Adelaide-Perth road trip and centre Paige Hadley will again be energized following her COVID-19 experience at the beginning of April. 

The versatility offered by Hinchliffe, Mahalia Cassidy and Laura Scherian in the midcourt could be the key to a third win for the season. 

“The ability we now have to use Mahalia, Maddie and Shez through there gives three distinctly different styles,” Byrne said. 

“And, look, that’s where the game will be won on the weekend, in the midcourt.” 

Watch our game against the Collingwood Magpies live on Foxtel or Kayo this Saturday from 5pm

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