Lightning happy to be underdogs
SUNSHINE Coast Lightning have been quick to claim the underdog tag for Sunday's Super Netball derby against the Queensland Firebirds despite flexing their championship muscle by thrashing West Coast Fever.
Having lost their 2019 season opener 57-43 to Collingwood, Lightning kick-started their bid for a hat-trick of titles with an 80-55 weekend demolition of the Fever in a rematch of last year's grand final.
That 25-point win, plus Sunshine Coast's recent dominance over the Firebirds, should have the Lightning as warm favourites to defeat their Queensland rivals - who are yet to win this season - when the teams meet on Sunday at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre.
But largely written off following the departures of Geva Mentor (Collingwood), Caitlin Bassett (Giants) and Kelsey Browne (Collingwood), the Lightning are happy to retain their small fry status.
"It's not necessarily a motivation but I love being the underdog - Queenslanders love being it," Lightning goal attack Steph Wood said.
"I guess people can write us off but I like being the underdog so you can continue to do that one if you want.
"The competition's quite even and it'll be interesting how the season plays out."
The Firebirds are still chasing their first win of the season after a 57-57 home draw with Collingwood last Saturday.
Firebirds goal attack Gretel Tippett said her side needed to string together four "amazing" quarters of netball.
"We've come off a loss and a draw as well, so this (game) means a lot to us. We're trying everything we can to play the best netball we can," Tippett said.
"(Lightning are) a classy team, they've got an amazing coach (Noeline Taurua) and great players. We just need to come up with a strong game plan, and that consistency over four quarters is something we'll be focusing on."
Tippett said the Firebirds and Lightning shared a healthy rivalry.
"In terms of players, we've grown up playing with each other, and through the ranks as well in under 21s, 19s and 17s," she said.
"It's like old teammates playing against each other, but with more passion.
"It's always nice to win in your home state and be the No.1 team but it's a long season as well. This is (only) game three."
Wood echoed Tippett's sentiments.
"I love it. I think there is a little bit of rivalry. You want to be the No.1 team in Queensland," Wood said.
"I encourage everyone one to get down to the game and cheer. It doesn't matter if you cheer for the Firebirds or the Lightning, as long as you get there and cheer, I'll be happy."