A knee injury to Steph Wood has soured Sunshine Coast Lightning’s 82-61 Super Netball upset win over the Queensland Firebirds and sparked concern for the Diamonds’ Commonwealth Games preparations.
The last-placed Lightning thrust a dagger into the Firebirds’ finals hopes at Brisbane’s Nissan Arena on Saturday but, with the Diamonds team for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games to be finalised next week, the national selectors eyes will be on Wood.
The Lightning skipper and Diamonds vice-captain was dominant, running the hosts ragged with 22 points and 23 feeds before leaving the game with a knee injury in the third quarter.
Otherwise, it was a rousing performance from the Lightning in the local derby, with Woods’ teammates running away with the game after the captain’s departure.
Goal shooter Cara Koenen led with 46 goals while Tara Hinchliffe’s four gains at goal defence clearly disrupted the Firebirds attack line.
“I think the difference is having no expectations,” Koenen said.
“We knew we could play like that but it’s disappointing it’s taken so long.”
A month ago the Firebirds were pressuring the top two but they are now outside the top four after a fourth straight loss.
Their season is now on the line and they face second-placed West Coast Fever next round in Perth.
With everything to play for, the Firebirds were surprisingly off key in the first half.
It was the little things that burned them. Gretel Bueta was twice called for stepping, Lara Dunkley spilled a simple pass out of court and they conceded twice as many penalties as their opponents.
Losing so much possession hurt, and by halfway through the second quarter the Lightning led by eight goals.
In contrast, Wood had the game in her hands.
The tough, selfless lines she ran created hectares of space for circle partner Koenen, and she burst free at the end of the half to shoot a pair of super shots that sent the Lightning ahead 36-28 at the long break.
Wood continued to run amok during the third term as the visitors stretched their lead to 14.
But the crowd of 4306 gasped late in the quarter when the goal attack fell to the court after jarring her knee.
The anguish on her face was obvious as she left the court for treatment from Lightning physiotherapist Greg Craig.