Superleague may need Super Cup-style tournament, says Mikki Austin
"If we are at a point where we can get back to some form of competition, and right now that looks like a really big if, then it could look like a completely separate, almost Super Cup-style tournament"
Last Updated: 23/03/20 5:13pm
Mikki Austin believes the Vitality Netball Superleague may have to look at something completely separate like a 'Super Cup-style tournament', if the season is able to resume.
The Surrey Storm franchise director, head coach and player was speaking to Sky Sports News about her perspective on the competition's potential resumption at some point in the future.
The Superleague had played just three full rounds, with two matches of Round Four also being completed, before its full postponement on March 17.
"We're in such unprecedented times, as everybody knows and quite frankly the safety and well-being of everybody involved is at the forefront of our minds," Austin said to Sky Sports News.
"As much as we love sport and want to get back to playing netball as soon as possible, it pales in comparison to what's going on across the world right now.
"If we can get back to playing some form of competition then that would be amazing because, at some point in time, it will be a really nice pick-me-up for everybody to have something to look forward to and to see that across our screens.
"As it stands, we have no idea what that would look like. In my own personal opinion, I think that it's pretty far removed that we're going to be able to have some form of competition that looks similar to our current Netball Superleague.
"I think if we are at a point where we can get back to some form of competition, and right now that looks like a really big if, then it's going to look like a completely separate almost Super Cup style tournament."
Deconstruct: Mikki Austin
Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, we spent a typical day with Mikki Austin and it started with a very early alarm call!
Austin, who juggles the roles of franchise director and head coach alongside being a player at Storm, highlights the added complexities surrounding franchises' locations and training bases in England.
"We don't own our venues, our venues are universities or in exhibition centres. In which case, this is now a government decision and it's for our government to decide at what point those facilities could become accessible to the public," Austin shared.
"Then, we would decide off the back of that and answer questions like, is it safe for athletes to be in there? Is it safe for our fan base to come and join in as well?
"So, there are lots of different variables involved - it's not as easy as the league deciding what we want to do. In which case, that's why for all intents and purposes it's becoming less and less likely that we will be able to continue or see out this season, in my opinion."
For now, Austin and her team-mates at Surrey Storm are all training in their own homes and with her head coach hat on, she's not concerned about her players showing a lack of diligence.
"As much as physically possible, we ask them to evidence their sessions back once a week to our S&C team so at least they can check in, whether that's via a smart watch and them recording their workouts or time-lapse video," Austin shared.
"Our sport is not fully professional as it stands so there is a lot of trust in our athletes [anyway] because it's not like we get contact time with them every day to complete their training in front of us.
"It's making sure we can maintain that trust and ultimately, it's up to us as athletes to take that on our shoulders. We want to get back to some form of playing in the future, how ever far [away] that may be. So, it's making sure that we stay ready for that."
Alongside looking after players' at-home training, the franchise has been helping to keep fans engaged and spirits up on social media with the 'Stay at Home Shootout'.
This was a call for 16 players from the Superleague to take part in a challenge with individuals having 45 seconds to shoot 20 socks into a bin or basket from four to five metres away.
Austin, who is part of the line-up herself, joked that this challenge does include VAR to ensure that backboards aren't being used!!
Alongside her, England Roses shooter Eleanor Cardwell, Manchester Thunder's head coach Karen Greig and Loughborough Lightning's Ella Clark have all signed up.
The competition straight knockout with videos being submitted to Storm and released on their official Twitter platform for everyone to enjoy.
Storm's competition is one of a number of things Superleague sides are doing to stay connected and to support those around them.
Strathclyde Sirens are posting isolation workouts on their YouTube channel and their shooter and primary school teacher Lynsey Gallagher helping to answer schooling questions at their Facebook page.
Saracens Mavericks are phoning volunteers and season ticket holders to lend their support, as are Wasps Netball with their #MakeThatCall initiative.
When it comes to the competition's position and scheduling, the Vitality Netball Superleague board are due to reconvene with the clubs in mid-April. At that point, they will review the situation and share any further information or updates.