Rookie Sunshine Coast Lightning coach Kylee Byrne has revealed she’s feeling the pressure of the club’s outstanding Super Netball record, not wanting to be the first leader in club history to miss the grand final.
But Byrne, who has led the Lightning to a second-place finish in her first season as head coach following the departure of now-Silver Ferns mentor Noeline Taurua, says the real blowtorch is on minor premiers the Melbourne Vixens heading into today’s ((((SATURDAY)))) major semi-final at the University of Sunshine Coast.
The Vixens sewed up the minor premiership two weeks before the end of the fixture season and Byrne said they were the competition’s pacesetters.
“There’s always talk about how Vixens are the benchmark and there’s certainly that feel in our team as well,” Byrne said of a Melbourne team that secured two fixture wins over the Lightning this season.
“We know that to beat them on Saturday we’re going to have to be at our very best because they don’t let you get away with it if you make a mistake.
“(They’re) a team that’s just very good at executing the skills, the one-on-one defence, they don’t give up the ball, so we know that we have to be at the top of our game.”
Tongue-in-cheek, Byrne said the Lightning was also holding on to Super Netball’s “minor premiership curse”, with the team finishing top of the ladder never having won the title, including the Sunshine Coast after finishing in first place last year.
The Lightning won the first two Super Netball titles and reached the grand final last year before going down to the NSW Swifts but remarkably, head into the finals as underdogs with most pundits rating the Vixens and Sunday’s minor semi-final combatants the Swifts and West Coast Fever as greater premiership chances.
But Byrne said the Lightning were comfortable with being written off by doubters.
“We have high expectations of each other all year and that doesn’t change now in finals,” she said.
“Success for us, I think, is definitely another grand final and that’s why Saturday is such a big game.
“I certainly don’t want my first year as head coach being the one that we don’t make it, so there is a little bit of added pressure there as well.
“At one point, everyone was writing us off and said, they’re not going to make it but we knew that we didn’t need to peak in Round 6 or Round 7 and as long as we’re in this final four, anything can happen.”
Super Netball major semi-final
Melbourne Vixens v Sunshine Coast Lightning
University of Sunshine Coast