While it’s foreign territory to miss the Finals series for the first time in Club history, there were plenty of moments throughout the regular season worth talking about.
The Round 1 game took place in RAC Arena (Perth) against the West Coast Fever, and Lightning had four debutants take the court — Kadie-Ann Dehaney, Tara Hinchliffe, Annie Miller and Reilley Batcheldor (SSN debut). Our Suncorp Super Shot queen, Steph Wood, sank the highest number of two-pointers across the entire round, with Batcheldor sinking two of them on debut. Tara Hinchliffe also celebrated her 50th National League game during this match, an impressive milestone for the young player.
COVID-19 took Lightning Captain Steph Wood out of Round 2 against the Queensland Firebirds. Despite going down in the Queensland derby, it provided Cara Koenen and Reilley Batcheldor the opportunity to work on their combination, achieving 83% and 76% shooting accuracy respectively.
The Round 3 away game against the Adelaide Thunderbirds did not disappoint, with Lightning bringing home the first win of the season to celebrate Laura Scherian’s 100th National League game. Laura achieved 31 circle feeds, 15 goal assists and 12 centre pass receives— and topped it all off by winning player of the match.
Fighting back tears, Scherian said: “It’s really what we needed, everyone’s been working so hard. We got ball today and we used it.”
Round 4 against the Collingwood Magpies took place at Melbourne’s John Cain Arena and saw another milestone achievement — Kadie-Ann Dehaney notched up 50 National League games. It was a fitting milestone venue for Dehaney who commenced her National League career in 2017 in Melbourne with the Vixens.
Lightning played a huge game against the Melbourne Vixens in Round 5 and disrupted the away side’s unbeaten start to the season. Maddie Hinchliffe had a cracker of a match, playing her first full game at centre and finishing with 16 goal assists, 34 circle feeds one gain and three deflections.
The team rode the momentum of Round 5 into Round 6 against the NSW Swifts where they got the win over the defending champions. Tara Hinchliffe brought the spark down the defensive end with 10 gains, three intercepts, six deflections and 7 rebounds. Annie Miller played a strong role in the attack line, finishing on 14 goal assists, 21 circle feeds and 10 centre pass receives.
Unfortunately Lightning couldn’t catch a break from Rounds 7–10. Koenen was ruled out of the Round 7 match against GIANTS Netball but returned in Round 8 against the Adelaide Thunderbirds. While they couldn’t get the win, defenders Kate Walsh, Tara Hinchliffe and Mahalia Cassidy were Lightning’s backbone and caused a lot of chaos. Hinchliffe had four intercepts while Walsh and Cassidy had two.
The Pride match against West Coast Fever in Round 9 was a special event. Both teams stood united in their desire to promote netball as a place where everyone belongs and a sport that opens its arms to all, irrespective of gender or sexuality. Both teams were seen wearing pride bibs as well as having the option to wear rainbow shoelaces to embody the spirit that everybody belongs in netball.
Unfortunately COVID hit again, ruling out Scherian. However, Lightning training partner, Jada Gafa, was given the opportunity to join the team against Fever and made her Suncorp Super Netball debut. It didn’t stop there, with COVID taking out Walsh for the Round 10 match against NSW Swifts at USC Stadium. This provided the opportunity for another Lightning training partner, Bridey Condren, to receive the call up and take the court for the Lightning for the first time.
Sunshine Coast Lightning showed what they were made of when they travelled down the highway to play the Queensland Firebirds in Round 11. Koenen led with 46 goals while Tara Hinchliffe’s four gains disrupted the attack line of her previous club. It was an impressive performance by all 10 players who stood up and delivered on their roles.
While Lightning had a narrow four-goal loss against the Melbourne Vixens in Round 12, it was an extraordinary fight against a team that was top of the ladder. Koenen finished on 100 per cent shooting accuracy and Miller had the second-highest number of goes assists and circle feeds with 19 and 26 respectively.
The scores from the final two matches of the season against Collingwood Magpies and GIANTS Netball did not reflect the fight Lightning put up during both games.
The 2022 season showed glimpses of potential for Lightning, and it was clear to see different connections across the court build throughout each game. With three Lightning debuts, three Suncorp Super Netball debuts, three milestone achievements and four players affected by COVID protocols, the season came with its ups and downs — but the Club is gearing up for a huge 2023.