Diamonds coach not writing off Lightning this time
NETBALL: Australian Diamonds coach Lisa Alexander says she won't be writing off the Lightning as a top contender this season after not rating the two-time premiers a finals chance last year.
Just over midway through the 2018 fixtures, Alexander revealed the four clubs she believed could hit the court in the semi-finals and hadn't included the defending champions.
Although the new campaign was still a way off, and despite the Lightning having experienced a turnover of talent, the Australian coach said she wouldn't cast the same aspersions on the club again.
Alexander, who is currently on the Coast visiting the club and its players, said her thoughts on their chances last year had been based on personal experience.
"I did (not rate them), but I'm not the world's best tipper always and obviously that gave the Lightning a little extra (motivation),” she said.
"A hangover is a hangover, it is really tough winning back-to-back premierships. I've done it as a coach with the Melbourne Phoenix back in 2002-3 and I know how difficult it is.
"And actually we went for three in a row, I was reflecting on that recently, and lost that 2004 premiership to the Sydney Swifts by one goal.
"It's tight at the top but I'm not going to write the Lightning off this year, that's for certain.”
The continued rise of the sport on the international stage and level of talent in Super Netball had Alexander excited for a hotly-contested season ahead.
She expected Lightning to be strong, especially in the back court.
"(Karla) Pretorius and (Phumza) Maweni are fabulous, their combination has grown again in the international stage and I expect it to happen here under the stewardship and beautiful coaching of Noeline (Taurua),” she siad.
"World netball is in a great place and that means the Suncorp Super Netball season is going to be the best ever because of the internationals that are here.”
Along with hosting some skills sessions, Alexander said she would also use her trip to catch up with Australian goal attack Stephanie Wood.
She had been pleased with Wood's progress over the past 12 months and had been particularly impressed with the Lightning star's resilience in last year's grand final after copping a hard hit.
Alexander said she'd also been excited by Maddy McAuliffe's progress and believed she was on the cusp of a future in green and gold.
"I think she had such a breakout season and particularly her game in the grand final was really awesome,” she said.
"I think she understands that she's getting closer (to a Diamonds call-up). It's just (fine-tuning) that final piece of the puzzle and x-factor. You've got to do all your team stuff but you've got to be able to do the really individual stuff that really changes a game as well.”