It was a blockbuster Round 1 in more ways than one with new recruits Kiera Austin and Olivia Lewis making their official debuts for the Melbourne Vixens.
“I was very, very nervous. It felt like my debut at SSN level, it felt like I hadn’t played SSN for years,” said Austin.
“It was very nerve-wracking but I was excited to get out there and become a Vixen, and play with the girls and get the win. Excited would probably be the main emotion but definitely very nervous at the same time.”
After missing last year with an ACL injury, it was a momentous occasion for Austin to step out on court in her new colours with her teammates.
“Obviously I lent on the girls for support before and during as well. But once I started running around it felt a bit more normal, the adrenaline kicked in and I was like ‘okay this is what netball’s like again’,” she said.
“But I think the added pressure of Round 1, everyone wanting to put their best foot forward, it definitely felt very intense from the get-go. I was excited to make it through the game and do one game better than I did last season.”
Slotting seamlessly into the frontend, Austin impressed with her movement and once she nailed her first goal the memories all came flooding back.
“I think it was a bit of a relief. You’re on court running around and thinking about where you’re going, setups and your structures, so when I got to the circle I was like ‘okay I’ve actually got to shoot’, and then it went in and I thought ‘this is fine, you’re doing great’. I think we can all be our own worst critic at times. Once I got that first goal, I felt myself relax a bit more so I was very happy with that.”
Pulling on the navy dress was also a highlight for Lewis who was filled with nervous anticipation ahead of her potential debut.
“It was amazing preparing for the game. I tried to keep my normal processes, but the excitement of debuting was definitely in the back of my mind. To finally get out there after a long pre-season, it was really nice to finally have a number to put on my dress. It was awesome.”
Making the move across the country in the off-season, Lewis quickly showed off her defensive skillset when she entered the court, immediately changing the course of the game with her anticipation and elevation.
“Obviously not starting, I knew my role was to be ready at any time, knowing that if I were to get on I wanted to make that impact,” Lewis said.
“To have that opportunity, and then feel like the preparation paid off and I felt ready to go as soon as I got out there was really good, so I guess it was nice to back in my preparation.”
Coming off the back of a long pre-season, the win not only got the Vixens’ season off to a strong start, but also provided the debutants with a little bit more to celebrate after the hard-fought victory.
“We really wanted to transfer all of that preparation into Round 1. I backed us in all the way, we've got such a great group of girls and we're such a solid team. To be able to officially put that on paper was nice. It's really good to win but to win with a team you're so fond of as well and to get around it with the girls was awesome,” Lewis said.
Austin and Lewis now share an even more special bond, the pair both joining the club at the end of last year and now debuting together.
“Kip and I have a special little friendship, both being fresh to the state and we basically lived together the first few weeks in Melbourne. There's also the added layer obviously of her coming back from her ACL injury,” said Lewis.
The next challenge is taking on NSW Swifts in Round 2, on Saturday 2 April at Ken Rosewall Arena in Sydney.
The Vixens’ first home game is in Round 3 against the GIANTS at John Cain Arena on Saturday 9 April – tickets are available now via Ticketek.
*Image supplied by News Corp