Sunshine Coast have embarked on their quest for a fifth consecutive Super Netball finals appearance with a clinical 67-56 victory over Collingwood Magpies.
The Lightning proved too strong for the Magpies on Saturday at John Cain Arena as the two-time premiership winners look to bounce back from a 2020 season that saw them miss out on a grand final berth for the first time.
With inspirational midcourter Laura Langman retiring from the sport last year, club vice-captain Steph Wood flourished in her new leadership role as she steered the Lightning attack with devastating effect.
"You don't really know where you're at until you come up against opposition once the season starts," Wood told the Nine Network after finishing with 20 goals and 20 goal assists.
"It's a great start for us but I think there plenty to work on and we'll go away and hit (Melbourne) Vixens next week."
Former Queensland Firebirds midcourter Mahalia Cassidy impressed in her Lightning debut while defender Kate Shimmin featured in her 100th national league game after crossing over from the Adelaide Thunderbirds.
Coming off a horror 2020 campaign that saw the Magpies finish on the bottom of the ladder and part ways with coach Rob Wright, the home side battled valiantly throughout the contest but could not prevent the Lightning from winning every quarter.
While there was plenty to like for the Magpies, including successful returns for dual-code star Ash Brazill and Kelsey Browne after missing time through knee injuries, new coach Nicole Richardson felt the team fell away in some key areas during the second half.
"I think our centre pass conversion in the last quarter was at 36 per cent and overall 56-57 compared to (Lightning's) 71 - you're never going to win a game that way," Richardson said after the loss.
Fresh off an impressive debut for the Australian Diamonds in the Constellation Cup, Cara Koenen made all 13 shot attempts in the opening quarter, including a rare two-point Super Shot, to hand the Lightning a narrow 17-16 lead.
The Lightning scored eight of the first nine goals of the second period to jump ahead 25-17 but a crucial deflection from Magpies captain Geva Mentor help spark her side into action as they tried to claw back the lead.
New Collingwood goaler Kalifa McCollin marked her Super Netball debut with a late Super Shot to cut Sunshine Coast's halftime advantage to 33-30 and Shimona Nelson stepped up in the third quarter after the Lightning skipped ahead by 11 goals.
But with the Magpies down by five, Steph Wood broke Collingwood's resistance with two Super Shots to close the term with a 54-46 lead before combining with Koenen to build an unassailable double-digit lead early in the final quarter.