Get this team a drink, but where’s the fridge?

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - SPORT - ROBERT CRADDOCK

ONLY a few months ago they were scram­bling around get­ting biros and balls as the coach asked “does any­one have a whis­tle?’’

It’s all hap­pened so quickly they have got their hands on the tro­phy be­fore they’ve got an of­fice fridge.

So quickly that their sup­port­ers are still be­ing ed­u­cated on when to cheer — not that they need much en­cour­age­ment for they are a hearty and loyal crew.

Wel­come to the ex­otic suc­cess story of the Sun­shine Coast Light­ning netball side, the team that rose from ground zero to be ground­break­ers and pre­miers in their first year.

Coach Noe­line Tau­rua shakes her head in won­der­ment at the jour­ney and has colour­ful mem­o­ries of walk­ing in to their new of­fice at the Univer­sity of the Sun­shine Coast for the first time.

“When we walked in it was an old psy­chol­ogy stu­dent hall with the dou­ble win­dows and cur­tains,’’ Tau­rua said.

“But we were happy be­cause we had four walls and a build­ing and we knew we wanted to put our own flavour.

“We had to do ev­ery­thing. I re­mem­ber in those early days ask­ing ‘where are the balls … do we have a whis­tle?’ We still don’t have a fridge.

“Pa­per, pens, those sort of things which you just took for granted pre­vi­ously … at times you laughed at it all.’’

The Light­ning have done more than win a ti­tle in their first year — they have given a sport­ing face to a re­gion that was crav­ing some­one to love.

Think Sun­shine Coast sport and you think … who?

Grant Kenny? Hang on, he first made head­lines way back in 1980 when he won the Aus­tralian junior and se­nior iron­man ti­tles in the one day.

Kayaker Clint Robin­son? Sure, but his Olympic gold medal was won 25 years ago.

Pat Rafter’s fam­ily lived at Eu­mundi for a while, Mal Meninga’s fam­ily passed through the re­gion, Al­lan Langer and Billy Moore bought restau­rants and the great Norm Provan moved there in re­tire­ment.

But there’s no doubt about it. The Sunny Coast was dy­ing for some­one to wrap their lov­ing arms around and now it has it. All those Gold Coast sport­ing teams that went up in smoke must be rolling in their graves.

“The sup­port has been amaz­ing right from the start. You go to su­per­mar­ket and peo­ple stop you but they are also very re­spect­ful,” Tau­rua said. “They will say hello but they are not in your face. That is the Sunny Coast for you.’’

It has added to the side’s story that they play out of a tiny per­pet­u­ally sold out 2000-seat venue at the Univer­sity of the Sun­shine Coast which has the flavour of the mas­sive fam­ily back­yard bar­be­cue.

They could not train on the venue last week be­cause there was Univer­sity ex­ams.

“We call our sta­dium bou­tique,’’ Tau­rua said.

“You pretty much know ev­ery­body. Peo­ple come up be­hind you and tap you on the shoul­der and that just makes part of the at­mos­phere.”

There were yel­low shirts ev­ery­where in the crowd of around 9000 last night — surely most of the 2000 rusted-on reg­u­lars.

The day will come when re­cruits will say their jour­ney started when they were inspired by the pre­miers of 2017 who had ev­ery­thing bar an of­fice fridge.

A shame re­ally be­cause if any win de­serves a cold drink, it’s this one.

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