“I can’t wait!”
They’re the words from an excited Sunshine Coast Lightning coach Noeline Taurua ahead of the 1st round of the Suncorp Super Netball season. With just one week to go and a massive pre-season behind them, the Lightning are revving up to finally get the 2019 season underway.
Speaking at their team training session yesterday, Taurua said she is thrilled at how the team is coming together ahead of their first game against the Collingwood Magpies in Melbourne on 27th April.
Following a busy pre-season schedule which included a hit-out against the Queensland Men’s team on Sunday and the #TeamGirls Cup in March, Taurua said she was relieved that the team has emerged with no injury concerns. “There is an increased load on players; we have gone up a level this year, but injuries have been well managed and I’m very happy with everyone’s progress.”
The pre-season has allowed the team to test important strategies and combinations, but Taurua believes the next couple of weeks are crucial. “It will be important what we do over the Easter break, so we don’t pull back; but give ourselves the best possible prep going into the first round.”
According to goal attack Steph Wood, Lightning fans can expect a different game from them this season. “[we’re] Playing a fast game – short and sharp. [It’s] Not as aerial as it was with Caitlin Bassett, but [fans] will need to tune in and see the changes we’ve made”, she said.
With the announcement on Monday that Laura Langman (captain) and Karla Pretorius (vice-captain) will lead the Sunshine Coast Lightning in 2019, Taurua believes the thorough voting process amongst the team has brought about a fantastic result.
“We pride ourselves on our environment and the freedom to express ourselves. I’m proud of how the process was approached. [It is an indication] of the strength of the team and of the club”, she said.
After taking last season off, Langman – a veteran of 194 national league level games and 148 tests for New Zealand – said she is honoured to be voted by her peers into the position, but joked that she “will be the coin-tosser and Karla will do the team ‘chat’.”
Taurua described vice-captain Pretorius as being quiet and humble, but on court rated her as “a machine and a game-breaker. She is awesome”, she said.
Sunshine Coast fans can rest assured that Taurua’s focus is solely on the Lightning during the 2019 Suncorp Super Netball season. Although coach of the New Zealand Silver Ferns, and with Assistant Lightning Coach Kylie Byrne coaching the under 21 Australian team, Taurua is confident the pair will be able to juggle their commitments.
“It is business as usual for us. When I’m with Lightning – I’m with Lightning”, she stated. “The New Zealand domestic season is already well underway, and it finishes early, our season is about to start, so there is a bit of space before preparations [begin] for World Cup.
For coach Taurua, she’s not thinking that far ahead just yet. With another week of training and the Easter break ahead of them, the team will continue to concentrate on fine-tuning new player combinations and tactics before shifting focus and preparing for their first game of the season against the Magpies at Melbourne Arena.