Lightning aim to break a competition ‘curse’
NETBALL: Lightning defender Madeline McAuliffe has downplayed a perceived competition voodoo that has doomed previous minor premiers.
In consecutive seasons, minor premiers the Melbourne Vixens and Sydney Giants respectively have failed to reach the final fixture of the Suncorp Super Netball competition, despite locking in the top spot.
Saturday's major semi-final showdown between the Sunshine Coast Lightning and the New South Wales Swifts marks a first for the Coast side as it looks to defy the longstanding "curse".
"History tells us it's true but in saying that, history tells us that we win the grand final," McAuliffe says.
The coastal side has won four of its last five fixtures against the second-placed Swifts, with the most recent defeat back in round seven in 2018.
"You just don't know what teams are going to come out with, so we've just got to step it up another level and just be prepared for whatever is going to come," McAuliffe says.
The 25-year-old wing defence has been a vital part of the squad's record-breaking season, which saw the locals finish with a total of 12 wins, locking in an all-important home final.
"That was a really big thing for us as a team to secure the home final," McAuliffe says.
"Our home crowd is amazing. It's so loud and everyone here is so passionate.
"You haven't got one person who doesn't know what's going on."
Departing coach Noeline Taurua says the squad is "really loving" the challenge of being the first side to overcome the competition's "curse".
"It's a different challenge and a different pathway that we've taken," Taurua says.
"(It) would be a neat one (milestone) to put on the old mantle piece.
"We sort of can't pat ourselves on the back yet."
A win at home this weekend would mean Lightning would host the tournament's grand final in little more than a fortnight.
"They (Swifts) have been sublime in form and it definitely could have gone either way as to who was going to be number one and two," Taurua says.
"They are going to be amazing out there and that's what we're expecting."
The two teams faced off earlier in the regular season with the Lightning holding on for a narrow two-point win.
A victory this weekend would mean a third consecutive grand final berth for the Lightning, paving the way for a fairytale send-off for Taurua.
The Lightning will take on the Swifts at USC Stadium at 3pm on Saturday.