Why sequel could trump original for gutsy Lightning

SUNSHINE Coast captain Geva Mentor says the sequel could be sweeter than the original for the Lightning.

The two-year-old club will be gunning for its second Suncorp Super Netball crown on Sunday when the Lightning meet the West Coast Fever in the 2018 grand final at Perth Arena.

They shocked the netball world when they won the best club competition on the planet in their first-ever campaign in 2017.

But a series of obstacles rocked their title defence.

Their name is engraved on the peculiar Super Netball Trophy for their 2017 heroics but the effort to get back to the big dance has underlined why they are champions.

The Lightning lost highly influential New Zealand great Laura Langman who returned home after helping steer the side to glory last year.

They lost their opening three games and only qualified for the finals after winning their last regular season match to finish fourth on the ladder.

They will end up playing all three finals games away from home.

Geva Mentor says victory this year would be even sweeter. Picture: Liam Kidston.
Geva Mentor says victory this year would be even sweeter. Picture: Liam Kidston.

They also lost coach Noeline Taurua for three games mid-season after she returned home following the death of her father.

"We've gone through a lot as a club this year,'' Mentor said.

"To be back in the grand final is testament to who we are as a club and the strength we have individually and as a group.

"It's been quite different to last year but we've got our head around it.

"We rally around our own here. We've been able to show that real grit.

"It would be a fantastic story if we are able to put the cherry on top with a win.

"But it's going to be bloody tough to beat the Fever. We still need to do the job. It's hard to make these things but harder to turn up and perform.

"But we know what is required and we are up for the challenge.''

West Coast Fever’s Jhaniele Fowler will be a handful. Picture: Getty
West Coast Fever’s Jhaniele Fowler will be a handful. Picture: Getty

Victory today would be the fourth premiership for Mentor who was part of the Adelaide Thunderbirds (2010), Melbourne Vixens (2014) and Lightning (2017) sides to taste grand final glory.

It would also complete a golden double after being part of the English team that stood on top of the medal dais at the Commonwealth Games.

Mentor and defensive partner-in-crime Karla Pretorius were voted into Super Netball's 'Team of the Year' last week and the dynamic duo will have their hands full containing towering Fever goalshooter Jhaniele Fowler.

"Thank God for team sport, hey. Because it takes a whole team effort to try to contain Jhaniele who has been prolific this year,'' Mentor said.

"You've got to disrupt the ball supply all the way down the court.

"I'm really enjoying playing with Karla, she is quick and tenacious but she always wants to improve. I love having a front-row seat to her spectacular intercepts.

"I'd like to think there's a lot more to come with us and our partnership. We are not perfect but we have the desire to improve and make each other better.''

Mentor said a Lightning win would be a victory for netball in Queensland, inspire young girls, widen the fan base and give impetus to better facilities on the Sunshine Coast.