New-look Lightning thump Swifts in Super Netball

Steve Barrett |

Recruit Liz Watson (R) helped lead the Lightning to a 16-point defeat of the Swifts.
Recruit Liz Watson (R) helped lead the Lightning to a 16-point defeat of the Swifts.

Sunshine Coast Lightning have made a striking early-season statement, starting their Super Netball campaign with a comprehensive 79-63 victory over the NSW Swifts at a sold-out UniSC Stadium.

Tipped as one of the competition’s major improvers after signing Diamond superstars Liz Watson and Courtney Bruce, the Lightning were challenged for three quarters on Sunday before trouncing last year’s grand finalists 23-11 in the fourth term.

The hosts were spearheaded by their fearsome frontcourt duo of sharpshooting Cara Koenen, captain Steph Fretwell and national skipper Watson.

“Our ability to weather the storms,” Koenen said, when asked what impressed her most about the win.

“The Swifts are a team that doesn’t give up a lot of ball.

“Every time we got a turnover we had to treasure it and make sure we delivered in our attacking end, which I think we did today.”

Sam Wallace-Smith of the Swifts collides with Courney Bruce.
Courtney Bruce (R) was strong in defence in a duel with the Swifts’ Sam Wallace-Smith. (Jono Searle/AAP PHOTOS)

Fretwell and Koenen’s efficiency and Watson’s sterling playmaking helped ease Sunshine Coast to a 19-16 quarter-time lead which expanded to 34-27 midway through the second quarter.

NSW alternated Allie Smith and Maddy Turner on Watson but neither could curb the Lightning’s superstar signing.

The Swifts’ English long-range specialist Helen Housby closed the half with a hat-trick of super shots to trim the home side’s cushion to 36-33.

But the visitors came out flat after half-time and were punished as the Lightning sprinted 11 goals clear, with Bruce commanding in defence.

Again, NSW launched a late fightback from beyond the arc, with Housby and Sophie Fawns flawless from super-shot territory – as they had to be – slicing the deficit to 56-51 at three-quarter-time.

The Swifts lost any momentum they had when they started the fourth term with a plethora of penalties and turnovers, before continuing to come up empty in their search for answers to Koenen, Fretwell and Watson as the home side ran rampant.