Surrey Storm end an enthralling, tumultuous Vitality Netball Superleague season on home court this weekend, but Mikki Austin continues to set targets for her burgeoning team.
Last weekend’s disappoint in defeat to Celtic Dragons has put ample fire in Storm bellies to right those wrongs against Manchester Thunder at Surrey Sports Park.
“We can use all of the feelings that we have from Saturday’s game in a really positive way, so hopefully out of something slightly bad will come something good,” says Mikki, who also sees the bigger picture of how far Storm have progressed in 2019.
“At the beginning of this season, we set ourselves three goals. One was to qualify for Fast5, which we’ve done. One was to win more games than we won last season, in a league which is twice as competitive. The only thing that we haven’t done thus far is finish in a higher league position, and if we win on Saturday we will. So as far as I’m concerned it’s still all to play for. We’re playing for pride.
“But I’m not completely blind to the opposition that is Thunder, so even if that part of it isn’t successful we’ve still achieved two out of three things that we set out to do this season. So there is definitely more positives to take away.”
Dragons led from the start in Cardiff on Saturday, but Austin asserts that her team deserved something from the game, and saw a familiar pattern after Storm pulled back to within three goals early in the third quarter. “We’ve had that moment in probably every single game,” she recognizes. “We have been there-or-thereabouts in every game bar one, and it’s just been one moment, one error that’s not allowed us to push ahead.
“So I’m really proud of the way that we are continuing to compete in every single game. And I’m really proud that the girls stood up to the physicality of that game and continued to play our style of netball.”
Whatever this weekend’s result, or final league position, Mikki retains the positives of a season where Storm have indeed competed with the best Superleague has to offer.
“We’re the only team outside the top four to have beaten two of the current top four, and we take great pride in that. We know that on our day we are really deadly, it’s just trying to find that consistency. But we’ll get there. We weren’t going to fix that when we’ve got a team with an average age of 22. This year we’ve given four Superleague debuts, and three Storm debuts, and in one squad of twelve that’s pretty unbelievable.
“I can’t put into words how proud I am of the players, for the amount that they’ve given and the way that they have pushed themselves forward to improve. It will always be a two-to-three-year plan. So providing we finish this season on a high then hopefully we can kick on into next year and beyond, and then then we can start talking about top four.”
Having previously declared herself “scared” at the prospect of not arriving for training, or not wading through hours of video analysis, how is Mikki now feeling with the final game now upon us?
“I’m sad, emotional, relieved, all wrapped up into one,” she admits. “I can’t believe we’re here. I feel like it’s gone so quickly, and I don’t know whether that’s a good sign or not. It’s probably been as much of a rollercoaster as we anticipated, but that’s just the nature of the beast.
“Sometimes you roll the dice and it lands, and sometimes it doesn’t. But there has been a lot more positives than negatives to take from it. And I hope that everybody else feels the same way when they think about Surrey Storm this season.”