NETBALL: She was Sunshine Coast Lightning's first player to put pen to paper and now she's secured the first ticket to her team's own show in 2017.
After months of anticipation and growing interest via social media, fans can now jump in the queue to join players such as Stephanie Wood as inaugural members of the Coast's first elite national sporting franchise.
An overwhelming response to Lightning's arrival ahead of the new-look Suncorp Super Netball competition has forced club officials to re-think traditional membership packages, just in time for Christmas.
With only 2200 fans able to pack into the re-vamped University of the Sunshine Coast Stadium, tickets for every home game won't be included.
Instead, members will receive discounted tickets in members-only purchase periods before home games.
It's a refreshing change for sports fans, with prices to range from $50 for a general supporter's package, up to $500 for a platinum package.
Supporters will receive benefits such as priority-ticket access, a 25% ticket discount and a stack of stocking-stuffing merchandise.
Platinum members will receive the same deal plus a netball signed by the whole team, access to school holiday clinics and access to members-only events.
Wood was honoured to be given the first ticket and will play with No.1 on her back in 2017.
"Personally, for me to be number one being a Queenslander and doing my under-age netball through the Sunshine Coast - it kind of sounds a bit fluffy - it's a bit of a fairytale for me,” she said.
The Australian Diamonds representative is confident the Sunshine Coast netball community, which boasts more than 5000 members, will get behind the star-studded squad.
"We want to involve them as much as we can,” she said.
"Playing in front of crowds lifts a team. They're like the ... eighth player out on the court.”
CEO Danielle Smith stressed the club had consulted with the various netball associations on the Coast before making the decision.
"The representatives were very supportive of the strategy as they all want to support the club and come to games,” Smith said.
"Several spoke to me afterwards and said they supported the concept as it helped alleviate concerns that there wouldn't be enough tickets to go around if memberships were sold as reserved seating packages.”
Members will still have access to early-bird tickets when Lightning play two home games at Brisbane Entertainment Centre.
Saturday night double-headers will be broadcast live on the Nine Network next year.
Smith is determined to ensure as many fans can attend home games in the boutique arena.
"We've already got over 7000 Facebook followers,” Smith said.
"...the limited capacity of USC in these early stages means there (was) greater risk if we sold season memberships. Those 7000 Facebook followers wouldn't be able to come along.”
Tickets are available now from http://www.sunshinecoastlightning.com.au/.
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