Thirteen months after her knee gave way in a Super Netball game, Kiera Austin has reached her career’s highest point, headlining Australia’s gold-seeking netball team at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games.
Melbourne Vixens shooter Austin, 24, is the only player who didn’t feature in January’s Quad Series triumph to crack the 12-player Diamonds squad, capping off her brilliant return from an ACL tear.
“It’s been a really big year for me. I think about where I was 12 months ago, I was learning to walk, run, hop again,” Austin told AAP. “Certainly Comm Games was in the very back of my mind, but, going through rehab, you can only go week by week and try and tick those goals off.
“I don’t think it has hit me yet that I’m going be a Commonwealth Games athlete. That’s something that can never be taken away from me.”
Austin wasn’t surprised when her ACL tore in May last year.
“I wasn’t in the best headspace, I felt very fatigued at the time, quite mentally fatigued. So then when it did happen, I was like, ‘OK, this is meant to happen’,” she said.
“Obviously, I was really devastated at the time, definitely had a few panic attacks when I was replaying the moment over in my head again. But once you have surgery, and just get on with it, I was really excited.”
Australia is eyeing redemption after losing the 2018 gold medal match to England by a single goal. Only captain Liz Watson, vice-captain Stephanie Wood, Jo Weston and Courtney Bruce remain.
“There’s only a few of us there that were at that gold medal match,” Watson said. But we have been speaking about this. The gold is what we want to do, obviously.”
Sunday Aryang, Ash Brazill, Austin, Gretel Bueta, Paige Hadley, Sarah Klau, Cara Koenen and Kate Moloney, will make their Games debut. Donnell Wallam, Jamie-Lee Price and Ruby Bakewell-Doran will travel as reserves.
“It’s certainly not been players not picked because they haven’t been performing,” coach Stacey Marinkovich said. “It’s actually looking at the dynamics of the group, what skill sets people bring and what versatility we’ll need to play a tournament style competition.”
Australia has won three gold and three silver medals in netball and is the most successful nation at the Games. The netball in Birmingham is from 29 July to 7 August at the NEC Arena.