KEY PLAYER: Madeline McAuliffe of the Lightning during a Super Netball match in Melbourne earlier in the season. She has emerged as a key player for the team during their run to the grand final in Perth.
KEY PLAYER: Madeline McAuliffe of the Lightning during a Super Netball match in Melbourne earlier in the season. She has emerged as a key player for the team during their run to the grand final in Perth. TRACEY NEARMY

Lightning's 'unsung heroes' poised for grand occasion

NETBALL: While there is plenty of hype surrounding the international stars ahead of the Super Netball grand final, Sunshine Coast assistant coach Kylee Byrne believes the Lightning's unheralded midcourt holds the key to victory.

Her side will collide with West Coast in Perth on Sunday after mounting a resurgence in the second half of the season.

There's some highly-anticipated match-ups near the hoops but Byrne expects the battle to be won around the centre third.

"I think both ends of the court will be under the spotlight and there will be a a lot of talk about the Geva Mentor versus Jhaniele Fowler-Reid match-up and the Courtney Bruce versus Caitlin Bassett match-up, so both circles have a lot of pressure," Byrne said.

"(But) I think this game is going to be won through the midcourt and defensively, which team can shut the opposition down.

"And I think that's a huge strength of ours, our midcourt have been doing an exceptional job and allowing intercepts to come from the back."

There were some question marks early in the campaign over the Lightning's midcourt following the off-season departure of centre/wing defence Laura Langman.

But centre Laura Scherian and wing defence Madeline McAuliffe in particular have worked hard to ensure the side remains a threat, while goal defence Karla Pretorius has nabbed the majority of the intercepts.

Byrne said the midcourt, with the core of Scherian, McAulliffe and wing attack Kelsey Browne, have proved instrumental to their success during the season.

"We were all finding our feet in those first three or four rounds, with international players coming back (from representative duty), and when we've needed it it's been the midcourt that's stepped up and just been that really strong link up and down the court," she said.

"They've been so consistent. That's where people are looking at talking about inconsistencies (this season) but I actually think they've been the consistent ones.

"They know what their job is and they've been going out there executing game plans perfectly and they're quite happy to under the (radar) as the unsung heroes and just get the job done."

The Lightning have won their past six matches.



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