Coach backs derby bid
SUNSHINE Coast Lightning coach Noeline Taurua says the success of Townsville’s first Test has proven the city is a viable option to stage its blockbuster derby against Queensland Firebirds.
Taurua took over the New Zealand coaching job this year and described Townsville’s reception as “outstanding” when more than 4300 fans packed into the Entertainment and Convention Centre to watch Australia beat her Silver Ferns in October.
The Lightning, who are searching for their third straight title, are looking for a venue for the round three Super Netball clash on Sunday, May 12, when their home court will be undergoing a redevelopment.
The reigning coach of the year highlighted the importance of taking Super Netball games to regional areas which don’t often get the chance to watch elite talent.
“My experience through the Test with New Zealand in Townsville was amazing,” Taurua said.
“What I found was the people were very supportive of netball. They feel like a sporting community and the welcome was amazing.
“I love the court, it was a very intimate court which delivered a great atmosphere.
“I’m assuming if it was to happen that a big crowd will turn up given both teams are from Queensland. We’re all waiting with bated breath to see where the game will be.”
A Super Netball game has never been staged north of the Sunshine Coast.
Lightning attacker Cara Koenen hails from Magnetic Island, while Townsville junior Kim Jenner would also be keen for a homecoming with the Firebirds squad.
“It would be fantastic if we do play there, but there’s so much uncertainty and we don’t want to get hopes up,” Taurua said.
“There’s upside if we do play there, or other venues that don’t get to see games live. It’s about hitting the areas in our catchment, to take netball out there into other communities is a huge positive for us.
“With players like Cara coming out of Magnetic Island, we need to show you can come out of those areas and compete at the top level.”
Given they play in Perth the week before, the Lightning hope a venue will be announced as soon as possible to aid preparations for their title defence.
After starring for the Diamonds in October’s Test win, former Lightning player Kel- sey Browne endorsed Townsville as a viable venue for marquee games.
“I love regional towns and playing in them,” midcourt general Browne said.
“Obviously the Sunshine Coast was really special, we had a community that got behind us and I felt like I was back on the Sunny Coast ( in Townsville).
“It was so loud and every goal we scored I could hear Townsville getting behind us.
“For us to come to regional areas is really exciting. I think Townsville should put their hand up.”