THE SUNSHINE COAST LIGHTNING SAVED THEIR MIGHTIEST PERFORMANCE FOR THE GREATEST STAGE AS THEY DOMINATED THE INAUGURAL SUNCORP SUPER NETBALL GRAND FINAL AT THE BRISBANE ENTERTAINMENT CENTRE.
In a historic title fight between two expansion teams, the Lightning recovered from a slow start to crush the gutsy but outgunned GIANTS Netball 65-48.
It was the heaviest Grand Final margin since the Swifts beat the Thunderbirds 65-36 in 2006 and the Lightning did not have a passenger.
Champion midcourter Laura Langman shed tears after the final whistle and captain Geva Mentor was a rock in a powerful performance.
Many thought the skipper was past her best when she left the Vixens at the end of last season but she had the final say with one of her best seasons since moving to Australia for the 2008 season.
“It was a massive challenge and definitely out of my comfort zone but I’m so happy I made that decision and this team has been my family,” Mentor said.
After two unsuccessful Grand Final campaigns with the Swifts, goal attack Stephanie Wood (16 goals) finally had some joy.
Her court craft was too much to handle for the Giants once the Lightning defenders grabbed control.
Wood’s placement was immaculate into Caitlin Bassett who reveled in her first Grand Final with 49 goals at 96 per cent.
For Giants star Susan Pettitt, it was sadly a third straight Grand Final defeat, but she gave everything of herself, as did defender Sam Poolman.
“The girls have been fantastic all year,” she said.
“We’ve had an absolute ball and I’m sure we will in the years to come.”
Giants captain Jo Harten also gave a wholehearted performance but finished the game on the bench as her side took risks in the final quarter.
This was a defender’s game, and it was fitting that the Lightning’s Karla Mostert was awarded MVP honours after grabbing three intercepts to help swing the contest.
It was the Giants who dealt with the nerves best and were super-cool in the first quarter.
Jamie-Lee Price seemed to own the real estate at the top of the Giant’s defensive circle and the Lightning midcourters had trouble dealing with the impasse.
Transition was slow enough that Poolman had plenty of time to assess the ball coming into Lightning target Bassett.
The Giants led by five goals at one point during the early stages before the Lightning midcourt regained some control.
Momentum swung on a collection of brilliant individual contributions from the Lightning’s experienced internationals.
Kiwi Laura Langman became a threat at both ends, South African Mostert poached two second-quarter intercepts and English star Geva Mentor started to own Giants shooter Kristina Brice.
The weight of possession told on the scoreboard for the Lightning who turned a two-goal quarter-time deficit into a 32-27 advantage at halftime.
Such was Mentor’s hold over Brice, the Giants moved Pettitt back into a shooting role in the third quarter to create more movement in their attack end.
Pettitt had been terrific at wing attack but it was an enormous ask to convert back to shooting mode.
By that stage the Lightning had stretched the lead to a commanding eight goals.
The Giants called Brice back into the action for the final term but by then their fate had been all but sealed.
Despite some untidy feeds, the Lightning pushed the lead out to double figures.
Fourth is no good enough