Sport Netball Lightning strikes twice to claim back-to-back Super Netball titles
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Lightning strikes twice to claim back-to-back Super Netball titles

Sunshine Coast Lightning shows winners are grinners. Photo: Getty
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Sunshine Coast Lightning coach Noeline Taurua hopes her star-studded squad will stay together after watching it beat West Coast Fever 62-59 in the Super Netball grand final.

In a topsy-turvy title decider at Perth Arena on Sunday afternoon, Lightning overcame a seven-goal deficit in the second term to shoot out to a four-goal lead in the last quarter.

In front of a record crowd of 13,722, Fever fought back to take the lead with less than six minutes remaining. But Lightning scored six of the final eight goals to secure its second straight title.

Former Fever star Caitlin Bassett was player of the match for her 45-goal haul, while teammate Steph Wood overcame a heavy collision with the goal post to finish with 17 assists and 17 goals.

Fever’s Jhaniele Fowler scored 53 goals from 55 attempts. Photo: Getty

Goal defence Karla Pretorius did an excellent job on Fever veteran Natalie Medhurst (six goals), but West Coast goal shooter Jhaniele Fowler was near unstoppable with 53 goals from 55 attempts.

Lightning had to win the title the hard way, losing the first three games of the season before finishing fourth.

Sunshine Coast then beat the Firebirds and Giants during the finals before defeating Fever on enemy territory.

But its hopes of a hat-trick rest largely with list management.

Every player in the competition is now off contract due to the new collective bargaining agreement and Lightning faces a battle to keep its squad together.

A record crowd of 13,722 watched the final in Perth on Sunday. Photo: Getty

The future of coach Taurua is also up in the air, with rumours swirling she could become the new head coach of New Zealand.

Taurua says she will consider her future in the coming weeks but hopes the bulk of Lightning’s squad will recommit.

“The big thing for us now is contracting,” Taurua said.

“Like all franchises, it’s pretty hard. I’m hoping a lot of the players we have had over the past two years will want to remain with Lightning, especially after that win.”

Sunday’s result means WA’s 22-year wait for a national netball title continues.

But the future at least looks promising, in stark contrast with the days of the Perth Orioles and the early existence of Fever.

West Coast coach Stacey Marinkovich is confident she can keep the bulk of her squad together.

“This is just the beginning for us,” Marinkovich said.

“We’ve come from seventh (last year) to playing a grand final and in some parts we were seven minutes away from taking a title.

“I couldn’t be more proud of the brand of netball we’re playing.”

Lightning goal defence Karla Pretorius restricted Natalie Medhurst to six goals. Photo: Getty

Fever captain Courtney Bruce was confident a golden era lies ahead.

“It’s our first-ever experience playing in a grand final for a lot of us and it’s a big learning curve,” Bruce said.

“We’re going to take a lot from this and I promise you next season we’re going to come back firing.”

MVP Bassett credits a university assignment with keeping her grounded before the final.

“I actually had an assignment due on Friday,” Bassett, 30, said.

“I tried to get my media out of the way at the start of the week and then towards the end when things were coming my way I was like, ‘I’ve got to get this assignment done’.

Caitlin Bassett had a tough battle against Fever captain Courtney Bruce. Photo: Getty

“I was on deadline to do that, basically. It was about photojournalism and visual journalism.

“I do media all the time. I’ve got my own radio show on the coast and I’m always doing bits and pieces.

“So to turn down one interview and then (for it to be) said I was on a self-imposed media ban I thought was hilarious.”

-AAP