Giant leap into the unknown for new-look Lightning
NETBALL: After two seasons of unprecedented success, the Sunshine Coast Lightning are about to take a big, bold step into the unknown.
Noeline Taurua returned to her coaching duties this week with a vastly different looking squad than the one she won back-to-back premierships with.
Starting players in captain Geva Mentor, gun goal scorer Caitlin Bassett and newly- established Australian Diamond Kelsey Browne are gone.
In their place is African powerhouses Phumza Maweni and Peace Proscovia, while 2017 player Laura Langman will join camp next week.
Questions remain how Taurua's changed outfit will handle Super Netball but she is "quietly confident”.
Today in Hobart her new brigade will take to the court for the first time against the Collingwood Magpies.
"I am quietly confident and inspired even by our first training on Tuesday,” Taurua said.
"It is too early to know what we will be like. We have evolved as a club over the last few years.
"Having two games, the opportunity to get out on court is huge and get out feet on the ground.
"I'm really keen to see what individuals out on court and see how we work together as a unit.”
Collingwood too, are a side in transition, unsure of what to expect.
It makes for an intriguing match-up.
"Collingwood have had a few changes to previous years but they're a heavyweight side,” the master Kiwi coach said.
Both Taurua and mid-courter Maddy McAuliffe are itching to match up against former Lightning stars Geva Mentor and Kelsey Browne.
McAuliffe is pumped just to be back on court again - her last outing was the grand final.
"I am just looking forward to seeing them (Mentor and Browne) again,” she said.
"Pre-season has been all skills-based. We haven't done a single centre pass.
"I haven't played with some of the new girls before, so it will be good to see how we combine.”
McAuliffe will look to add a new string to her bow this season, aiming to feature as a wing defence and centre.
The 24-year-old was an unsung hero play WD in the Lightning's triumph last year.
"I definitely want to play centre and I'm excited at developing it into my game,” McAuliffe said.
"Being more versatile definitely increases your chances of representative commitments.
"Laura (Langman) is returning but we have spoken about rotating through,” she said.