Nicole Humphrys today begins her long road back to fitness as she undergoes surgery for the knee injury suffered against Manchester Thunder earlier this month.
Humphrys ruptured her anterior cruciate ligament and hopes to be back on court in September as part of Storm’s pre-season preparations for the 2019-20 Superleague season.
Whilst admitting that she is “gutted to not finish the rest of the season with Storm”, her overriding emotion is determination.
“I’ve already been working hard in the gym,” reveals the 23-year-old who signed from Severn Stars last summer. “It’s just another bump in the road. It’s a challenge but I’ve got the mental strength to get through it. So bring it on!”
And she will remain a part of the squad all the way through her rehab, supporting from the sidelines. “This is my first season with the girls, I’m absolutely loving it and we’re doing well. I’ll go whenever I can and support the girls, I’ll definitely be at the games and cheering them on,” she smiles, before admitting that she is looking forward to becoming an honorary member of Storm’s passionate fanbase.
“They’re renowned for being very loud and supportive fans, and we really appreciate their support. I’m entirely grateful to the Storm fans, they definitely made me feel welcome in my first season here.”
And with good reason, as Humphrys’ performances attest – even if she feels that those fans haven’t yet seen the best of her. “It’s been good but I’ve still got more to give. We’re building and we’ve got new players in the team, and it’s been great to get out on court and try and establish those connections and work with new players.”
It is that team spirit, she says, which makes her “more determined to smash my rehab and come back even stronger”.
And Nicole will be receiving expert care from Storm’s medical team, led by physio Nathan Bellman. “It’s a very supportive system, they’re working really hard with me. I’m well supported,” she says of the six-month process.
“The first three months is working on my range of movement. In the second section you’re building on your strength, and then the latter stage of your rehab, the last couple of months, would be return to play – more netball-specific stuff which hopefully will be around September time, with pre-season and a good time to get back in with the girls.”
Wisely, though, there are no deadlines being set. “I’m taking it slow, making sure I don’t rush anything and I’m back for the season when it starts in February. This gives me plenty of time to focus on my rehab, work really hard and be in the best physical condition I can be.”
Returning from a serious injury can be as much of a mental challenge as a physical one, but Humphrys again proves that she is ready for it. “It adds fuel to the fire, and makes you appreciate what you have more. I’ve just got to count down the months,” she says, matter-of-factly, perhaps remembering that few professional athletes emerge entirely unscathed from their career.
“It’s what comes with sport and you’ve got to get through it,” she agrees. “It’s part of the journey and no one sees through a career without any knockbacks. That’s unheard of. It makes your journey unique and what you’ve been through as an athlete, as an individual.
“I’m resilient and I’m used to knockbacks, and this is just another bump in the road.”