Lightning strikes twice to claim back-to-back titles
THEY had to do it the hard way this year, but the Sunshine Coast Lightning have come out on top again, claiming the 2018 Suncorp Super Netball title.
The team's 62-59 win over West Coast Fever at Perth Arena stamped its name in Australian sporting history as the first ever start-up club to win back-to-back titles in its first two seasons.
It's a monumental achievement for a club that didn't even have a name just over two years ago.
The team claimed the title yesterday in a thrilling game in front of a record-breaking national netball league crowd of 13,722.
It wasn't an easy season for the Lightning, who started the year with three straight losses and had to fight at the end of the regular season to even play finals.
Facing tough away crowds in each final, the team united to put out some of its best netball all season on display on its run to claiming the trophy.
Sunday's game was no different.
It was a see-sawing battle that saw eight lead changes throughout the game.
The side trailed by as much as seven goals in the second quarter and captain Geva Mentor said she was proud of how every player pulled through to get the win.
"I was so impressed with the way they showed grit out there and it definitely wasn't pretty, but they really turned it in the third quarter," she said.
Mentor said it was hard to comprehend exactly what her team had been able to achieve in just two short years.
"I'm actually still quite in shock that we managed to do it, go back-to-back, and I can't quite comprehend what we've managed to achieve," she said.
Mentor said she believed a big part of the team's success came down to how the club had been set up from the first day.
"I definitely think it's a lot down to the personnel, the people we've got in this club," she said.
"They've definitely put the right people in place, starting with Noels (Noeline Taurua) and then the team that she selected and the team around the team."
Shooting superstar Caitlin Bassett, who was named MVP of the grand final, said the support the team had received from the Coast in the past two years had been phenomenal.
"We had a Lightning support crew come over with us, and to have that support over here was phenomenal," she said.
Mentor echoed Bassett and said the success of the team would not have been possible without the way the whole of the Sunshine Coast had gotten behind them.
"It's just been fantastic the way we've been embraced by the Sunshine Coast, and what we've managed to achieve is actually unbelievable," she said.
"I don't know if there are many sporting codes or teams around the world who have managed to do what we've done and it's definitely something that this group of girls and this team and this club are very fortunate to be a part of."
Youngster Madeline McAuliffe, who last year didn't play any finals netball, played the full 60 minutes of each finals game this year and said this victory was one she will always savour.
"A different feeling playing today in comparison to last year's grand final," she said.
"That feeling being on court when the final whistle goes, it's just incredible and you can't compare it."
What did you think of Sunday's Super Netball grand final?
This poll ended on 28 August 2018.
It was amazing!
I was surprised by the results.
I don't watch netball.
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McAuliffe said she felt incredibly lucky to be a part of the Lightning team and said there was no way to explain how amazing the experience had been.
"The Sunshine Coast community, you honestly can't explain it," she said.
"Their support is incredible, and even at the the beginning of the season when we obviously didn't start the way we wanted to, they always had that belief that we could do it.
"Even the crowd that came over, Perth's not a short trip and a heap made that trip, so we're so lucky to have the support we do on the Coast.
"We look forward to getting back home and celebrating the win with all the fans over there."
McAuliffe said yesterday's win was extra special after a tough start to the year for the team, both on and off the court.
"This year we've had a lot of struggles, you know every team does, but we had a really tough year at the beginning and a lot of people lost a lot of people really close to them, so I think that bought us even closer together," she said.
Sunshine Coast Lightning players will join the Sunshine Coast community in celebrating their recent grand final win at a public meet and mingle event on Wednesday, August 29 at Buhk Park, near the Alex Surf Club.