Look up determination in the dictionary, after the six months former Life Studio and now Australian under-17 star Annie Miller’s endured there’s a fair chance her headshot will be right next to the definition.
After what was thought to be a regulation sprained ankle in October ended up keeping her out for almost three months Miller was in serious doubt to even don sky blue at last month’s national titles, let alone push for an Australian gig.
NSW coach Nerida Stewart showed plenty of faith in her young, resilient vice-captain but it did eventually get to the point where Miller was given an ultimatum – make it onto the court to train with the side, or be ruled out.
Fortunately with plenty of hard work she did recover, testing the ankle at February’s HeartKids Cup at Orange and then starring in NSW’s mid-court at Adelaide last month, where her side finished fifth.
As a result, she was named in the 36-strong Australian squad on Wednesday afternoon.
“I’m super excited, I wasn’t expecting it at all,” Miller enthused.
“I almost had to step down from the NSW side because of that injury but I worked really hard with the physios and was able to get there in the end, which was great.”
Miller and her Australian teammates head into camp at Canberra’s Netball Centre of Excellence in October, where they’ll be put through their paces before facing New Zealand and England’s equivalents in practice matches.
“I can’t wait to get into the high performance training environment before the camp as well, with [the NSW Institute of Sport],” Miller said, another added bonus from her selection.
“It’s pretty exciting to hear that we’ll have the chance to play against England and New Zealand too.”
For a side with title aspirations the eventual fifth finish was somewhat disappointing, although Miller and her NSW teammates were agonisingly close to walking a substantially different path.
One-goal losses to South Australia and Queensland – no other side came that close to the former, the now three-time consecutive champions – and a shock draw with Western Australia proved costly, NSW ended up missing out on the semi-finals on goal difference.
The sky blues led 10-0 early in that clash with the West Australians and then 15-5 at quarter-time, looking every bit a championship side in the first term.
But, in the story of their campaign, they were unable to maintain the rage and were eventually forced to score a goal on the full-time hooter to salvage the draw.
Simply, NSW was unable to put a four-quarter performance together against the bigger states, also going down to Victoria, but it did score wins over the ACT, Tasmania and the Northern Territory to finish the preliminary stage in fifth.
NSW went on to thump Tasmania 45-11 in its semi-final, before beating the ACT 48-25 in the fifth-place play-off.
“It was disappointing for us, we were really hoping to make into that top four and then see how we fared from there but unfortunately it didn’t quite pan out the way we wanted it to, even though the games were close,” Miller said.
Miller will now look to Netball NSW’s Samsung Premier League, although she is once again battling an ankle complaint and racing the clock to be fit for Manly-Warringah’s opening round.
The Sapphires’ reigning under-20 player of the year, she’ll once again slot into that side, which she says is gunning for a title after missing last year’s semi-finals completely.
“It’s my right ankle this time, the other one,” Miller lamented.
“Hopefully I’m back for the first round but if not it’ll be close to the start of the season. I haven’t actually been able to do much with the rest of the side because all the state commitments but I’m looking forward to getting back into it. A premiership’s the goal, for sure.”
The Sapphires face North Shore United in round one, on Wednesday, May 30.