BATTLE FOR CONTROL: Jacqui Russell of the Lightning and Kimberlee Green of the Giants challenge for the ball during the round eight match at the USC.
BATTLE FOR CONTROL: Jacqui Russell of the Lightning and Kimberlee Green of the Giants challenge for the ball during the round eight match at the USC. Bradley Kanaris

Lightning look at bench as possible catalyst for more spark

hNETBALL: Sunshine Coast Lightning's line-up could receive a bit more of a shake-up on court in the future as the defending champions seek to be in the mix for finals.

The Coast outfit has mostly kept its line-up unchanged throughout the first half of the season, only injecting fresh legs from the bench in four of their eight fixtures.

But, that's something assistant coach Kylee Byrne said could change in looming battles.

The Lightning will host the Firebirds in a Queensland derby on Sunday at USC Stadium and Byrne said all 10 players were being looked at in regards to court time.

"We've reopened it and all 10 are in the mix (for a start),” she said.

"The three that haven't had enough court time bring us something totally different and that's actually what we're exploring at the moment.

"Although we've got names in this team they might be able to do some time on the sideline, have a look and then re-enter the game as well.

"So we're just playing with a few things at the moment.”

The outfit's starting seven has consisted of Caitlin Bassett, Stephanie Wood, Kelsey Browne, Laura Scherian, Karla Pretorius, Geva Mentor and Madeline McAuliffe.

The three sitting patiently on the bench have been Erena Mikaere, Jacqueline Russell and Cara Koenen.

Of those courtside, Mikaere has been called on the most, hitting the court in three fixtures. Koenen has only hit the court once this season, in round five.

Meanwhile, Russell debuted in round five and received solid game time last week against the Giants.

"I'm feeling pretty good,” she said.

"It's been really great just getting out here training with such high-quality players week-in and week-out so I do feel like I'm slowly, steadily, improving and getting those opportunities is really good and certainly good for the confidence going into the second half of the season.”

She is keen to get more court time in the future and hopes the use of the bench more will make a difference in the run to the finals.

"I guess at this point in the season we've played everybody once and obviously we've had a few losses so perhaps we do need to change a few things up to try and make sure that we win those games next time and not just draw but go the next step and start getting some really good wins on the board,” she said.

The Lightning currently sit two points outside the top four with six games left, but Byrne wasn't too fazed just yet.

"The points difference between us and number one at the moment is only nine points and considering the amount of points on offer at the moment in each game means it's not panic stations at all,” she said.

"...We've got a target of how many points it will take to get to finals so we're all across that and all aware of that.”



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