The Melbourne University Lightning will return to the Bupa Victorian Netball League with a point to prove in 2019. As one of the most consistently successful clubs in the competition, Lightning were understandably disappointed with the outcome of the 2018 season.
After finishing the home and away season as minor premiers, their championship team suffered two devastating losses in the finals that ended their season prematurely.
In the absence of Lightning’s Deakin University Australian Netball League players during the first half of the season, many of the Lightning’s Division One players made the jump up to the Championship division with the experience proving invaluable for these players. The Division One team dominated the court in the final rounds of the season with the return of their players, however they finished narrowly out of finals contention, in fifth place.
The vast talent the Lightning boast in their player line-up and coaching panel cannot be underestimated. While the club has lost Gabi Sinclair to Magpies Netball in 2019, Lightning are still one of most powerful clubs in the Bupa VNL. Flaunting the likes of Ramayer Gourley, Mikaela Vaughan and Kelsie Rainbow for another year, in addition to young stars Rebecca Winch and Ella Woodman, Lightning can expect another highly competitive season ahead.
After transitioning from an elite netballer to a coach, Elissa Kent (nee McLeod) has established a strong coaching panel at the Lightning, which includes Belinda Lees and Karen Worland. In 2019, the trio intend to take the club from strength-to-strength.
As a practiced coach in the Bupa VNL’s Championship grade, Kent is well versed in what to expect of competing clubs, and the significance of the entire competition for players and officials alike.
“I’ve been so impressed with not only the standard of the competition and the professionalism with how it is run, but also the professionalism and high performance cultures within the club environment at Melbourne University Lightning,” Kent said.
“The importance of the VNL cannot be underestimated; it provides not only the athletes with the opportunity to improve and develop, but also enables them exposure so that they may have the opportunity to play in the ANL or SSN level.
“It also provides pathway opportunities for coaches and umpires in that same high performance pathway.”
Lightning are known as a club that feature upcoming and returning stars in their player line-up, which audiences experienced after witnessing former Melbourne Vixens Renae Ingles and Chelsey Tregear don Lightning’s uniform in 2018.
After seeking young new talent at trials, Lightning has finalised their team lists in preparation for the new year. With the official pre-season commencing in January, the club will hold informal sessions to work on base line fitness and bring the club together socially.
If their 2019 season is comparable to their most recent successes, spectators are in for a treat as Lightning will continue to govern the courts.