Local product primed for Lightning opportunity
Local product Ashlee Unie is again on the cusp of earning a coveted Super Netball debut and she’s eager to grab the opportunity with both hands if given the chance.
Established club training partners Unie and Binnian Hunt have been elevated to Sunshine Coast Lightning’s extended 12-athlete side ahead of their Round 1 clash with Queensland Firebirds in Brisbane on Saturday.
Super Netball announced last week that match-day squads would be boosted from 10 to 12 players in a bid to aid injury prevention during the condensed campaign.
Unie, a Coast junior, came close to snaring court time last year, when she was named part of an extended 12-player squad during Rounds 10-11 to help counteract fatigue or injury concerns following the Netball World Cup.
She was also elevated from training partner onto the Lightning squad as injury coverage in Round 3 of 2017.
However, she’s yet to actually debut on court and was “lost for words” when told she’d been elevated again.
“ … Her (coach Kylee Byrne) telling me that she’d love for me to be a part of it really blew me away,” Unie said.
She said she was privileged to train weekly with some of the world’s best players and was not taking the opportunity lightly.
If she lands on court, Unie will be the first Sunshine Coast product to play for Lightning.
“I still remember when I went to watch my first professional netball match and I couldn’t believe that this was something people did for a living and that there was this kind of calibre of netball in the world,” she said.
“It’s something that I really want to grab with two hands and hopefully one day step up on that court and do Lightning proud.
“You’ve just got to be ready, particularly with rolling subs this year anything could happen at any moment. So, (you’ve) always got to be ready to step on court and give your best.”
Meanwhile, this is Hunt’s first opportunity to experience a Lightning match day after three years as a training partner.
“This is something that I have worked really hard for, for a number of years, so for Kylee to put her faith in me is an incredible feeling,” Hunt said.
The promotion is a strong vote of confidence from head coach Kylee Byrne and she is confident both players are up to the task after working extremely hard over the pre-season campaign.
“Binni and Ash have been part of our Lightning high performance environment for a number of years and I have seen them both flourish as athletes and as people,” Byrne said.
“Extending team lists from 10 to 12 provides a great opportunity for us to bolster their development and we look forward to giving both players more exposure to Lightning game days this season.
“Ash is a skilled one-on-one defender who has emerged through the Sunshine Coast junior pathways, while Binnian complements our list of circle shooters and boasts speed and creative flair.”