Applying a handbrake to Captain Steph Wood will be Coach Kylee Byrne’s toughest task as the Sunshine Coast Lightning target Sunday’s Round 3 road trip to Adelaide.
Wood has emerged at close to full health from her COVID-19 absence and trained with the team on Thursday ahead of the crucial clash with the unbeaten Adelaide Thunderbirds.
Byrne’s mission will be to pace the comeback of a competitor who is accustomed to giving her all.
“We’ve got to be mindful of heartrate when they return from COVID-19 protocol,” Byrne said.
“It can accelerate really quickly and stay up there so we’ll be very careful with Steph.”
Still, Wood’s re-emergence will certainly make a difference against a Thunderbirds defence that has tamed GIANTS Netball and Collingwood in its first two outings.
Her appearance in the match day side alone is an inspiration, while Wood’s vision and creativity empowers the players by her side.
“With her ability to control the game and work everyone else into the game, we’re very, very excited Steph’s back,” Byrne said.
The meeting in Adelaide will be an opportunity to re-set after a challenging opening fortnight for the Lightning, and a chance to make a statement in club favourite Laura Scherian’s 100th National League Game.
“She’s put her hand in some big moments and no doubt this week will be one of them,” Byrne said of Scherian.
A big week lies ahead for the Lightning, with the Adelaide game to be followed by a Wednesday night clash with the Collingwood Magpies then a return home to host the Melbourne Vixens on April 16.
There is much to like about the side as it strives for a first win for the season.
Sunshine Coast sits fourth in the competition for goals scored and only the Thunderbirds and GIANTS have conceded fewer penalties.
And they know how to rebound from a slow start after losing their first three games in 2018 before rising to claim the premiership.
“Most of the improvement this week has come from defence,” Byrne said. “We’re pretty OK with what’s happening at the attack side of things.
“We’ve been in this situation before and been under the same pressure and ended up winning a premiership.
“As a squad, and from myself as coach, we’re absolutely confident in the group we’ve got.”