LIGHTNING: Sunshine Coast Lightning athletes Cara Koenen, Phumza Maweni, Karla Pretorius, Steph Wood, Laura Langman, Laura Scherian, Jacqui Russell, Madeline McAuliffe, Peace Proscovia and Annika Lee-Jones.
LIGHTNING: Sunshine Coast Lightning athletes Cara Koenen, Phumza Maweni, Karla Pretorius, Steph Wood, Laura Langman, Laura Scherian, Jacqui Russell, Madeline McAuliffe, Peace Proscovia and Annika Lee-Jones. Patrick Woods

Stadium upgrades and new-look squad set to ignite campaign

FOUNDATION player and Australian Diamond Stephanie Wood says she has relished every minute of Sunshine Coast Lightning's whirlwind journey and is eager to hit the court for the club's third campaign.

The Sippy Downs-based outfit will get their Super Netball season under way on Saturday when they travel to take on Collingwood Magpies.

Remarkably, they enter the the 2019 campaign as two-time champions and the most successful start-up team in Australian sporting history.

Wood said she had savoured the past two years in Lightning colours and had enjoyed being part of the club's growth.

"For me personally, at this point in my life, I don't see myself moving away from the club," Wood said.

"I love this club and to be a foundation player and being the first person signed at the club is not something that I take lightly.

"I love the culture we're bringing and I want it to keep growing and I want the club to continue to be successful and I want to be part of that journey."

It's not just her time on the court she's savoured, but immersing herself in the region too.

"I'm loving it and the community here is great," she said.

"I think the community support we have gotten is also the reason behind the fact we have a bigger stadium now because we would sell out games and a lot of people would miss out so to push that stadium out again is probably something I think is really exciting and watching it get slowly built up I think is really cool."

The Lightning's USC Stadium home is currently in the midst of a $9million redevelopment to expand seating capacity by 50percent.

An extra 1000 seats will be created, with the new-look venue to be unveiled when the Lightning host the Giants in round five on May 25.

The Lightning will hit the court this year with a refreshed line-up after Geva Mentor (Magpies), Caitlin Bassett (Giants), Kelsey Browne (Magpies) and Erena Mikaere (New Zealand) moved on to other opportunities. They'll take on Mentor and Browne in the season-opener.

While they were some big losses, Wood was thrilled for what the squad could offer this season with international representatives Phumza Maweni, Peace Proscovia and Laura Langman entering the fold.

"The players that have come in are different and they don't play the same way," she said.

"Peace doesn't play how Bass does and Phumza doesn't play like Geva and that's what I find quite exciting about it. It adds something completely different to our team and I actually think that's really cool.

"You don't get caught playing the same brand of netball if you don't have the same people and they add something different and they see things different to what we see and it's something you can add to your game."

Wood said she would also embrace a different approach to her third season at the club, and fifth on the national stage, with consistency key.

"I think I'm learning that sometimes you can't save the world," she said.

"A big thing for me is I can't do what 21-year-old Stephanie could do so you've got to play a little bit smarter.

"And, for me, that's analysing the game. I really love looking at footage and trying to beat an opponent who might be taller than me or might be certain things.

"I'm constantly trying to add to my game and constantly building to make myself a better player.

"For me it's about getting that consistent level across a full season and probably also becoming that attacker that is actually quite potent on defence."

The Sunshine Coast Lightning will take on Collingwood Magpies at 5.15pm today for the Super Netball season opener. The match will be played at Melbourne Arena



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