The launch of the Sunshine Coast Lightning national netball team is big news.
And with such a strong netball program at Matthew Flinders Anglican College, our young players are in the box seat to take up many exciting new opportunities.
The Sunshine Coast Lightning is the region’s first national elite sports team.
A joint venture between the Melbourne Storm and the University of the Sunshine Coast, with backing from the Sunshine Coast Regional Council, the Lightning has appointed its head and assistant coaches, its new CEO, and has secured top players.
Old Flinderian Ashlee Unie, who graduated in 2013, has also joined the Lightning as a training partner. Ashlee started pre-season training with the team this month at the University of Sunshine Coast Sports Stadium.
Next February, the new national netball competition will get underway, with games to be televised live in a Nine-Telstra broadcast deal. The Sunshine Coast Lightning will join new AFL-backed teams from Melbourne and Western Sydney, alongside the five existing clubs, which competed in the now-disbanded trans-Tasman ANZ championships.
Former Silver Ferns player Noeline Taurua is the new Lightning coach, who is aiming for a top four finish in the first year.
Taurua has already met local netball officials and players and has spoken of her desire to foster the game on the Sunshine Coast.
Flinders Director of Netball Lauren Nourse, a former Qld Firebirds captain and Diamonds player, said Taurua was very keen to get into schools and foster the local talent.
“The best thing about the Lightning is that it gives everyone on the Coast the opportunity to have their own team and have ownership of it,” Ms Nourse said.
“I’ve spoken to Noelene and she is planning to have open training sessions. This will give the girls the opportunity to go and watch.
“Open training is a big deal, just to get into that environment and for the young players to see how to train hard, they can see if that’s the way for them.”
“For young girls on the Coast, it gives them something to aspire to – not that we didn’t have that with the Firebirds, but this is closer to home.”
Ms Nourse said there would also be opportunities to have national-level coaching staff visiting schools and competitions, to view first-hand the talent coming through the ranks.
“Speaking to Noelene about what we do here at school, the gym, the carnivals and state-wide competitions, we are probably a step ahead of the NZ programs.”
Ms Nourse said that young players needed to realise there was a lot of hard work that needed to be done to achieve a netball career, including still focusing on getting a good education.
“It’s important to have your education and pursue uni. It’s important that you continue this basis for the future while pursuing netball. When you get to the end of your career, you then know you have something else,” she said.
“Having the Lightning here will make these pathways clearer.”
Netball is a family affair for many Flinders families.
Bella, Bronte and Beth Clarke all love the game.
While Bella may not see netball as a future career, she is excited about the wonderful opportunities provided by the Sunshine Coast Lightning.
“For many girls who want to continue on that path of netball, opening a local team gives them easier access to that pathway. It’s a very good opportunity for many girls in the future,” Bella said.
“It’s important that these girls stick to their future goals. It’s giving support and recognition and will get local girls a name.”
Portsea Turton and her younger sister Tulley-Mae, love the team spirit of netball and making so many friends along the way.
For Portsea, who was a member of the Qld U15s Team this year along with Vivienne Fitzpatrick, who was named the Maroons captain, the Lightning will bring many opportunities.
“Seeing the elite players makes you want to work harder,” said Portsea, who has her sights set on a future netball career.
“Having the Lightning here will bring more people to the Coast like selectors. At the moment they really only see you in Brisbane.”
Natalia Fitzpatrick, a former long-time president of the Flinders Netball Club, has had five daughters playing through the ranks of junior netball. “I’ve seen how far netball has come in the last 20 years. Let’s see how far it can come in the next 20.”