IF THE SUNSHINE COAST LIGHTNING ARE WORRIED ABOUT THEIR 0-3 START TO THE SUNCORP SUPER NETBALL SEASON, THEY’RE NOT SHOWING IT.
At the same point last season the Lightning had two wins and a draw to their name on their way to the inaugural title, but have endured three tight losses in 2018 after copping a trio of in-form teams in the opening rounds.
But captain Geva Mentor says that with the competition and talent gap tightening considerably this year, there’s no such thing as an easy win anymore, however they’re confident of turning things around.
In Round 3 the Lightning almost did what many thought might be impossible this season – quelling West Coast Fever Jhaniele Fowler’s influence and coming within a goal of the league leaders.
Mentor says that if they put that standard of play out each week they’ll soon be chalking up wins.
LIGHTING v MAGPIES NETBALL
When: Sunday 20 May, 1pm AEST
Where: Margaret Court Arena
Tickets: Purchase here
Broadcast: Live on Nine, Netball Live App, Telstra TV
“We’re optimistic in the fact that the teams we’ve played so far are sitting one, two and three. It’s a tough competition this year but we know that as long as we string a few more performances like that together then we’ll start to come out with those points,” she says.
“It was really unfortunate we weren’t able to steal that win in the end. One thing that’s pleasing for me is the performance we put out there and it was definitely better than the week before and that’s what we set our standards on, that we improve each time we step out on court. Disappointing not to come away with the four points but definitely moving in the right direction.”
“For us it’s about trying to improve on those moments in the game that we’re letting slip.”
“We’ve lost three games by three goals, three goal and one goal so we’re right in the contest and we’re definitely not throwing everything out with the pram just yet.”
The assignments don’t get any easier for the Lightning. On Sunday afternoon they face a Magpies Netball outfit that comes in full of confidence after registering its first win of the season against the Adelaide Thunderbirds last weekend.
While the Lightning held sway against the Magpies in both of their meetings last year – once by seven goals and once by a single goal – Mentor knows they’ve got their work cut out to maintain that record.
“You look at them individually and they’ve got some star-studded players in their team and I think they’re starting to find some great form. They’re obviously coming off a win last week so they’re riding high.
“We’ve had some great battles against them last season, (including a) one-goal win that we managed to steal.”
Being the “hunted” in 2018 is a tag the Lightning are still learning to live with, with Mentor suggesting other teams have clearly put more time into planning how to disrupt them.
“They know the brand of netball we’re putting out there, they’ve seen how the combinations have worked and they’ve also improved in themselves. We still need to make sure we lift from where we are, we’re not just sitting back on our performances and success from last year,” she says.
Some of that additional attention has been focused on Diamonds teammates and leading goaling combo Caitlin Bassett and Steph Wood, who have copped their fair share of bumps and bruises from their opponents so far this season, with the competition as a whole stepping up its level of physicality.
Mentor says she’s not surprised the Lightning’s stars are receiving more opposition attention, adding that she’s prepared to go into bat for her teammates if required.
“You look at the year that Bass and Steph had last year and they were fantastic,” she says.
“If I can look to protect them a little bit more by talking to the umpires if they’re absolutely getting nailed in that circle, then I can.”
“For them I think they should be excited (about) the fact that defenders are having to find new ways to try and break them down and their combinations, and for them to actually rise above that, and I back them 100% for that.”
photos Janos Schmidt