Grand final week nerves can wait for Sunshine Coast Lightning wing defence Maddy McAuliffe, who must finish a university assignment before playing her part in what could be a piece of netball history.
Lightning will gun for a second straight Super Netball title, in just its second season as an entity, against West Coast Fever in Perth on Sunday.
The all-time national netball game attendance record – 13,314 – is in danger, with nearly 12,000 tickets already sold for the Perth Arena clash.
McAuliffe has stepped up this season after a debut year under the tutelage of world-class wing defence Laura Langman, who has since returned to New Zealand.
But she isn’t taking her magical ride for granted, with the Sunshine Coast community embracing their only professional sporting team and the 23-year-old keeping plenty on her plate.
“I’ve got to go home and get some of my assignment done before the weekend, so I can switch off and go into full netball mode,” the law and business student told AAP.
McAuliffe also balances a job at the University of the Sunshine Coast with her sporting pursuits – par for the course of a Lightning squad not short on confidence or perspective.
“It can become quite all-consuming if you only have that one facet of your life,” she said.
“It’s easy to lose perspective, so it’s nice to have something to take your mind off it, a fallback after netball and a reminder that we’re super lucky to do what we do.
“We’ve said all year we’ve been our own worst enemy. We know our best is good enough (to win against anyone).”
Lightning bounced back from three straight losses to start the season to finish fourth and pip Queensland Firebirds and GSW Giants to earn a grand final berth.
West Coast won just two games last season but a 10-4 campaign in 2018 has earned it a shot at a maiden national title.
Just one point separated the sides in both games played this season, with the hosts prevailing in both.
“I don’t think my heart can handle it,” McAuliffe said of the prospect of another nailbiter.
“I know it’s entertaining, but we’ve done that way too much this season.”