NETBALL: One of the Sunshine Coast Lightning's top players, and a veteran of the game, has decided to "step away" from the sport in 2018.
After extensive consultation with the club, dynamic midcourter Laura Langman made the difficult decision to return to New Zealand and withdraw from the Lightning side ahead of the 2018 Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) competition.
"I have come to the decision that I am going to step away from netball in 2018," Langman said.
"At this point in time I have nothing concrete planned for next year, but I will put more energy into travel, work and family life at home.
"There were a lot of tears and a lot of thought put into this, but I am happy with my decision.
"2017 was a massive year for everyone involved with Lightning, not only the players and immediate staff but for Members, fans and the community. I think we established a really strong foundation.
"I have memories that will last forever, so thank you to everyone involved in the Club for the amazing journey. I am sad but excited to see what is ahead."
Langman was the third athlete signed by the Sunshine Coast Club and was instrumental in its premiership-winning debut season.
Her athleticism, versatility and consistency were rewarded with selection in the 2018 SSN Team of the Year at Centre, despite playing most games at Wing Defence.
Lightning Coach, Noeline Taurua praised her compatriot's contribution to the club.
"Laura helped establish Lightning and she deserves recognition for her professionalism on and off the court," she said.
"I am grateful we reunited this season and had the opportunity to work together once more. We learned from each other and she will no doubt take some Lightning traits back home.
"It was an extremely tough decision for Laura to make. Lightning values its people highly and I am proud of the way the club supported her during the process."
Taurua hoped Langman would make a return to the sport one day.
"Laura's return to New Zealand may open the door for a possible call-up to the Silver Ferns in the future," she said.
"She is too good an athlete to be lost to netball and I hope she comes back to the sport when she is ready."
A veteran of 141 consecutive Test matches, Langman represented New Zealand from 2005-2016 but was ineligible for selection this year while playing in Australia.
She has represented New Zealand at three Netball World Cups (2007, 2011, 2015) and has not ruled out the possibility of a fourth tournament at England in 2019.
"Netball New Zealand is happy with the strategy and the team it has, so conversations need to take place for me to get back into the Silver Ferns," Langman explained.
"Sometimes as a player, these decisions are not in your control and I think to help me get through this tough time I have to approach it like a non-selection.
"To date, every decision I have made is to make myself a better player and a better person to represent New Zealand."
Sunshine Coast Lightning CEO, Danielle Smith said it was a sad day for the Club, but was heartened by the incredible mark that Langman leaves.
"Laura's contribution was invaluable and we were extremely fortunate to have had a player of her calibre help establish our Club. She brought a wealth of knowledge and experience, and made a huge impact on an off the court," Smith said.
"Laura was highly respected by all at the Club, playing a key role in the leadership group. She was also a fan favourite, and endeared herself to our Members with her never say die attitude, and subsequently collected the Members' Player of the Year award.
"We will all miss Laura, but we wish her all the very best for the future and thank her for the wonderful legacy she leaves for our Club.
Sunshine Coast Lightning will announce a replacement player by the end of the month.