NETBALL: For rising star Stephanie Wood, the prospect of playing for the Sunshine Coast Lightning in the elite national league is a particularly exciting one.
The Australian Diamonds squad member and ex-Sydney Swifts goal attack had her first training session with the team at Caloundra on Monday, returning to her roots in a way.
"I played a lot of under-age (netball) through Sunshine Coast Lynx, the Sunshine Coast Uni, so to be part of the 10 players who are in the first elite sporting team on the Sunshine Coast is massive,” the Brisbane product said.
"And to be back near home...family is a big factor for me.”
The 24-year-old, who has played two games for her country, is determined to be a key player for the Lightning in the Suncorp Super Netball.
"I definitely think the best is ahead of me,” she said.
Wood is eager to evolve into a 60-minute player and is eager to take some of the heat off the Lightning's star player, Diamonds enforcer Caitlin Bassett.
"It's exciting to build a combination with Caitlin, who is probably the best shooter in the world,” she said.
"I've got to be pulling my weight. If I don't pull my weight it makes her job 10 times as hard.”
They have been on court at the same time, for Australia, for only six minutes.
"I got a little bit of a taste of it...so I'm excited to build that combination more,” she said.
"(During pre-season) I'll be learning where I need to be to place the ball with her.”
Most of the Lightning players are now on the Coast for pre-season training but England representative Geva Mentor is due later this week, with New Zealand talisman Laura Langman and Bassett still to arrive.
Wood believes the team has plenty of potential in its first campaign, under renowned coach Noeline Taurua.
"The facilities are great, with the court, gym and everything like that, and the people we have in the team are all super professional so I'm really optimistic,” she said.
"I think we've got a really good bunch of youth and experience in our team.”
The Lightning is an initiative of the Melbourne Storm and University of the Sunshine Coast and backed by Sunshine Coast Council.
Wood has also been selected in Australia's 12-player squad for trips to South Africa and England early next year, when she hopes to get more exposure to international netball.
The eight-team domestic competition gets under way in February.
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