Melbourne Vixens goaler Kiera Austin has reached her 50-game milestone against the Thunderbirds in Round 5.
Written by Amelia Barnes
Kiera Austin says it’s been “a long time coming” to reach her 50th national league netball game.
She’s watched past and present teammates, such as Kate Eddy and Amy Parmenter who made their debuts the same year, go on to play their 50th games in 2021 and 2022 respectively, so to reach this milestone herself feels especially momentous.
“I'm thrilled that it's finally here,” said Austin. “I think it definitely means more knowing how long it's taken me to get there.”
Reflecting on her Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) career to date, Austin remembers her former GIANTS teammate, Sam Poolman, celebrating her own 50th game in round nine of 2018. The same game was Austin’s first full SSN match, and she hoped this same milestone was in her future.
“She was so proud of herself and so was everyone else,” Austin said. “I remember being so excited to eventually get there one day.”
To play her 50th national game in Adelaide this weekend feels somewhat fitting for Austin who made her national debut against the Thunderbirds in the same venue.
It’s also the same court Austin ruptured her ACL on in round one of 2021, inspiring a valiant return to court in 2022 to play in the SSN grand final with the Vixens, and win gold with the Diamonds at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games.
Last night was Austin’s first time playing at Netball SA Stadium since the injury, yet there was no sign of nerves as she stepped out on court. She now looks back on her ACL and subsequent rehab as distant memories that have made reaching her 50th game even sweeter.
“They’re fond memories now – I’ve made my peace with it.”
Joining the Vixens was a big decision for Austin who rose to SSN through the NSW netball pathway. She played for the same local and rep clubs throughout the entirety of her junior years, and with the GIANTS from 2018 to 2021.
“The fact that I was thinking of moving was a big sign for me, and probably a sign that I needed to do it,” she said.
Among those who encouraged the move was her older sister, Emily Austin. The two are extremely close, and although joining the Vixens meant “Kippa” would move interstate, Emily supported her every step of the way.
“I could not wait for her to have this new opportunity with the Vixens,” said Emily. “She was prepared to put all her efforts into this new chapter of her journey, and we could not be anything other than excited for her.”
Now in her second year at the Vixens, Austin says she hasn’t looked back since. “It's been more conducive to the netball I want to play and the person I want to be off court.”
She points to the Vixens and Victorian Institute of Sport (VIS) support staff who helped make the transition between clubs, while still undergoing injury rehab, as seamless as possible.
The medical team, including team physiotherapist Emma Iacovou, and strength and conditioning coach David Veli, supported Austin virtually in the period between signing with the Vixens and moving to Melbourne, and eventually ensured her safe return to court in round one of the 2022 season.
“As soon as I moved down, they were great. They just believed in me, and they wanted me to test the waters,” said Austin.
“I was plateauing a little bit, but they said ‘let’s get this business happening’. My rehab shot up out of nowhere from there, and they got me back on court within 10 and a half months … They just made coming back and playing netball really fun – not scary.”
Emily also credits the support of netball fans who rallied around her sister in the days and weeks post-injury. “Even in her lowest moments, the positive messages she received kept her going and put everything in perspective. I can’t thank all those people enough!” she said.
This weekend, Emily watched (and cheered and cried) from home as Austin ran out on the SSN stage for the 50th time. Her family are looking forward to celebrating in person as the Vixens head to Sydney next week to take on the Swifts, followed by a home game against the Firebirds in round seven.
In her 50 SSN games so far, Austin has played in two grand finals, been named a club MVP, overcome a significant injury, and proved herself to make the Diamonds squad. If history is any indication, the next 50 is bound to be huge.
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