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Mikki Austin

Image: Ben Lumley

Surrey Storm player-head coach Mikki Austin took great heart from her side’s performance despite tasting defeat to Manchester Thunder 55-38 in the 2023 Netball Super League third-place play-off.  

Storm, who lost to 55-42 to London Pulse in their semi-final on Friday night, were ultimately well-beaten by Thunder after a devastating third quarter saw a 12-goal swing in favour of the 2022 champions.  

Thunder goal shooter Lenize Potgieter was imperious in the circle, scoring 42 goals while Storm’s attack struggled to find a way past Player of the Match Emma Dovey and goal keeper Josie Huckle.  

But Austin remained proud of her team’s efforts, as they signed off from the season in fourth place – their best finish for seven years.  

“We just wanted to make sure we ended the season feeling like we had given it our absolute best shot,” said Austin.  

“What could have been is what could have been, there is nothing we can do about that. We have battled hard through some really hard circumstances so we should absolutely be really proud of ourselves on how we have conducted our business.”  

After some initially edgy opening exchanges, Thunder quickly pulled ahead to boast a six-goal lead at the end of the first quarter.  

Storm fought back in the second quarter, with goal defender Layla Guscoth continuing the imperious form that earned her a place in England’s squad for the World Cup later this summer.  

But Thunder ultimately proved too strong for Austin’s side, who were competing in the play-offs for the first time since 2016, when they won their second Super League title.  

And after jumping from seventh to fourth this season, Austin has no plans to rip up the blueprint just yet after a season of pleasing progress despite the disappointment of defeat on Sunday.  

“Throughout my whole tenure we have tried to keep the main bulk of the squad the same and that is really critical to me, my values and how I try and conduct myself as a person and a coach,” she added.  

“It is really important that we understand the valuable human beings we have around our environment. Storm is such a phenomenal place to be because of the human beings who are part of it and we really do try and protect that at all costs.   

“The thought of going straight into a signing window almost fills me with dread, I am absolutely exhausted, but such is the life of directors and head coaches. There is not really an off-season, we just roll straight from one thing into the next.  

“I have no intentions of changing mass bulks of the squad unless I absolutely have to, and hopefully look for the extra two-percenters that take us from playing at 2.15pm [in the third-place play-off] to 4pm [in the final] next year.”  

The Netball Super League is the UK’s elite domestic netball competition and features ten teams from England, Wales and Scotland. For more information visit netballsl.com

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