Heartwarming reactions from Sunshine Coast Lightning’s two debutants book-ended the season opener on Saturday, with Mahalia Cassidy and Kate Shimmin both taking to court for the first time with the club.
For Shimmin, the occasion was made more special being her 100th National League game.
When Kylee Byrne gave the defender the nod, her reaction left the head coach beaming.
“The moment I looked down the court and said, ‘you’re on’, she did this double fist pump and it was so nice to see that passion and excitement of someone that went ‘yep – I’m going to go throw everything at it’,” Byrne says.
“For Kate to deliver what she did was a huge contribution to our win. She built with every minute of her court time and made the most of her first outing in the Lightning colours.
“Once she got moving and got into the head of the defenders her unique style came out and we saw glimpses of what Kate is capable of.”
Cassidy made a statement from the first centre pass, silencing any naysayers on Lightning’s midcourt changes in the offseason with the retirement of Laura Langman.
“For Mahalia, her transition into our team was effortless and seamless – it looks as though she’s been with us her whole life,” says Byrne.
“I thought she was very, very good.
“That connection with Shezzy (Laura Scherian) and balancing the circle edge, sharing the number of feeds and assists into the circle – it didn’t matter who was on they knew what role they had to play.
“In combination with Steph [Wood] as well, the three of them had the patience and the control to work the ball around.”
Testament to the club’s inclusive culture, Cassidy took time to praise her teammates post-match.
“She loved that game and commented to the group afterwards about how calm she felt and had some really positive words to say back which was huge,” says Byrne.
At 25-years-old, Cassidy has a lot of upside both individually and as she continues to settle in Lightning’s lineup.