Recovery requires both physical and mental strength for Austin

3 months ago

The road to recovery is a long one, but for Kiera Austin the recovery is not only physical – it’s also mental. Having ruptured her anterior cruciate ligament in May last year, Kiera has been working in overdrive ever since to reach her peak once again.

“I know that my knee is getting so much stronger and is capable of doing a lot more now. Every time I go out on court it’s like ‘yep you can do this, go off and do it and do it at a much higher intensity’.”

Although Kiera is steadily ticking the boxes, there is still a way to go for the Vixens recruit who is filled with nervous anticipation to get out on court and represent her new club – and of course test out her knee.

“I think I am surprised with how I feel about playing again.

“I can obviously still feel that there is still a tiny bit of rehab to do and that last bit of progression, but I’m starting to do all the agility drills.

“I thought I would be more nervous about it but I think excitement is quickly taking over. Rather than being scared I’m more excited about strapping my ankles, getting my first blister.”

In the scheme of things, getting your first blister may seem miniscule – if not painful – but for Kiera this was an exciting moment in her netball comeback, and one to share with her new teammates.

“Yesterday when I finished training I was like ‘guys I’ve got my first blister!’ and everyone cheered. We’re a weird little bunch.”

From a physical standpoint Kiera is hitting all the milestones, however she highlighted the overwhelming importance of the support she has received from psychologists at both the Vixens and GIANTS Netball throughout her journey.

“Obviously during that first little bit of rehab it was really hard not playing on the court, going through that early phase of rehab and missing out on opportunities because you weren’t physically able to prove yourself.”

Kiera has been on the sidelines for close to a year and while she has not lost the knack of finding her way around the court and shooting from just about anywhere in the circle, it was her wavering confidence that seemed to be a roadblock.

“My focus has shifted towards believing in myself again and trusting my ability as an athlete to go out on court and really build confidence in myself,” she said. “It’s funny how quickly you can lose it when you haven’t been on court in a little bit.”

“It’s only been a year, it really isn’t that long of a period when you think about how long a netball career can be. I think going pretty frequently to a psych and just practicing positive self-talk is really important. I’m excited to put it all into action.”

Performance is always at the forefront of Kiera’s mind, even when on the mend. Coming into a new club, new state and new set of fans, the goal attack is even more aware of the expectations – but she’s prepared to take everything one step at a time.

“I think growing up you just love the sport and play it because it’s really fun. Then when you get to a competitive level there are a lot of other factors playing in and you’re a lot harsher on how you perform. You want to perform not for yourself but your team, and your fans watching you.”

Admitting to being her “own worst critic” and being “very harsh on herself”, Kiera emphasised the importance of taking everything in your stride.

“I think learning to be proud of your journey and proud of what you are putting out there. Making mistakes is a good thing and I think learning from them is definitely a very important part of being a netballer.”

With the season quickly approaching, Kiera is upping the ante while adhering to the requirements of the Vixens physio team to get herself in prime physical condition – though she knows she still must overcome a couple of hurdles, one being learning to trust herself.

“I think doing everything at a higher heart rate and just trusting the knee, learning to take landings on it and not being scared to do it.

“I’ve only really been on court the past week and a half to two weeks and every single time I can see myself trusting my knee even more. It does take practice and not being scared.”

There is no denying that the love and passion for netball still runs deep for Kiera, with the 24-year-old excited to join her teammates out on court and showcase her court craft when fully recovered. She sees each and every training session as an opportunity to edge one step closer to hitting her goal.

“I’m very excited to keep pushing the boundaries and hopefully be on court even more in the next couple of weeks.”

Walking into a new environment in 2022, Kiera has not only been focused on rehab but so too forging new connections amongst the Vixens squad.

“I always thought they would be a very hard-working team. Even though rehab is hard I can see how hard the girls are working on court. I’ve liked that it is a very intense environment, and the girls are absolutely lovely so it’s made the transition really seamless.”

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