What do you get when you combine an elite national sporting team with passionate, yet laid back regional locals? A uniquely Sunshine Coast relationship.
Let me set the scene. A beautiful sunset casting a warm glow over the water, drinks flowing, canapes being nibbled and amongst those gathered for the Sunset Soirée at The Lakehouse were media professionals, sponsors, Sunshine Coast Lighting staff, fans, local business people and Sunshine Coast Lighting players themselves.
Last night Sunshine Coast Lightning had their end of year Sunset Soirée and we were in attendance as fans of the team and the sport, not as “My Sunshine Coast”. It’s easy to forget that this sense of approachability, friendship and familiarity is not the usual occurrence when we talk about an elite sports team and the community.
Whether I was approaching arguably one of the best netball coaches in the world, Noeline Taurua, (or any of the Lightning players for that matter) at an event like this, it wouldn’t have mattered whether I was media, or “My Sunshine Coast” or simply a fan. Noeline would have have given me the same kind of attention, respect and kindness regardless.
Sunshine Coast Lightning are the most successful start-up team in any sport in this country. Having won back to back premierships in the first two years of foundation, Sunshine Coast Lightning have taken the netball world by storm. Sunshine Coast Lightning is the Sunshine Coasts first national team in any sporting code, and it shows with just how much support the team has received here since they first took to the court in the Suncorp Super Netball national competition.
The Sunshine Coast has always been very community minded with probably a bit of a chip on our shoulder because we’re not a city like Brisbane, though we also aren’t treated like the big regional cities such as Townsville or the Gold Coast either. When it was announced that the Sunshine Coast would get a team in the inaugural Suncorp Super Netball two years ago the community really got behind the team. The fact that “our” national sporting team has been so successful so quickly is satisfying to say the least.
Channel Nines attempts at muting the crowd in televised games as is normal procedure, is futile, whether it be in Sydney, Melbourne or Perth, you can hear the Sun Coast pride loud and clear and that means something. Even when outnumbered by passionate Firebirds fans at Brisbane Entertainment Centre in the 2018 season elimination final, their voices rang clear. Sunshine Coast Lightning have some of the most passionate fans in the competition and this is something coach Noeline Taurura loves. That elimination final I just mentioned is a win that is special for most fans and as admitted last night, also special to Noeline herself.
Noeline and Kylee Byrne (Assistant Coach) spoke about the community last night. How incredible it has been for the last two years to be so welcomed by the Sunshine Coast. How you can hear the Sun Coast fans loud and proud at every game no matter where it is played. How intimidating it is for other teams to play in our stadium at USC Sippy Downs.
There was such a sense of genuine gratitude in the room and mutual respect and joy between Sunshine Coast Lightning staff, sponsors, media and fans. When it comes down to it we’re all fans. From the crew here at My Sunshine Coast who are fans, Peter Pallot from Sunshine Coast airport is a fan (who took home the auctioned signed netball), Michael Whittaker from Sunshine Coast Council is a fan and Ash Gierke, Emcee & Radio presenter is a fan. No matter as to what capacity you attended this function in, at the base, you were a fan.
Sunshine Coast Lightning may be one of the most professional sporting teams in the nation and with the input of that other well known ‘professional’ sporting team, Melbourne Storm, how could they not be? Though this is where the relationship changes somewhat, the distance between friend, media, colleague and fan are blurred and the line between ‘professional support’ and ‘fandom’ is very fuzzy. A particularly unique Sunshine Coast relationship. May it always be so 😊
Journalism Student & Sunshine Coast Lightning Fan