Sunshine Coast Lightning has announced it will become a major sponsor of the HART Sapphire Series team, Sunshine Coast Thunder.

Previously known as USC Thunder, the semi-professional state league team will take on a new name as Sunshine Coast Thunder, and will adopt modified colours that align with Lightning’s navy blue and yellow.

Simone Nalatu was recently appointed as the team’s Head Coach, following a successful period as Assistant Coach under Jenny Brazel, who late last year was appointed as Lightning’s Assistant Coach for the 2023 season.

Simone said the connection with Lightning will help local talent stay on the Coast.

“We’ve got a wealth of talent here on the Sunshine Coast and this partnership with Sunshine Coast Lightning will help enable those players to continue to live, study, work and play here,” she said.

“The opportunities also extend more broadly to Member Associations from Caboolture to Bundaberg through to the elite level at Suncorp Super Netball. Emerging regional Queensland netballers have an opportunity to chase their dreams without having to move to Brisbane.”

“While it’s important for the players, it also provides pathway opportunities for Coaches, Managers and Administrators, as demonstrated by Jenny’s elevation to Assistant Coach for Lightning — so it’s exciting to think about those factors too.”

Jenny Brazel will continue to remain connected to the Thunder team in 2023 as part of the pathways and development aspect of her Lightning Assistant Coach role. Jenny said the partnership would strengthen the elite pathways for netball players on the Sunshine Coast.

“This partnership gives the Thunder players an understanding that Lightning is heavily invested in the future of the Sunshine Coast netball community and gives them more exposure at the semi-professional level,” she said.

“There will be an added level of pride this year when the players step out onto court, knowing they are linked to a world-class, reputable Club like Lightning.”

The sponsorship will also see both the Sapphire and Ruby teams playing two home matches at UniSC Arena immediately following Sunshine Coast Lightning’s SSN matches, allowing Lightning fans to see the upcoming talent first-hand and enabling the Thunder teams to play in front of a larger crowd.

The HART Sapphire Series will start in April, with Sunshine Coast Thunder playing its first game against the Carina Leagues Club Tigers at Nissan Arena on Wednesday, 22 April.

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