FAST LANE: Mitch Austin dribbles the ball during a Jets training session at Ray Watt Oval. The flying machine feels at home in Newcastle. Picture: Jonathan Carroll
MITCH Austin was clocked running 34 kilometres per hour at Jets training last week.
The speed, recorded by a GPS tracker, is slightly below his best of 36kph.
Austin, who had a knee reconstruction nearly 10 months ago after being collected at Melbourne Victory training by keeper Lawrence Thomas, is confident of returning to peak velocity.
“The speed has always been there,” the 27-year-old said. “At the four-month mark when I started back running, I was the quickest in the Victory team. Initially, Iwas worried about that, but there is no problems. I was clocked at 34 kilometres last week. I am still getting fit.”
Austin, although recognised as one of the fastest men in the A-League, has not been timed over 100m.
“That question has been asked a few times but I don’t know,” he said.
However, he would like to test himself against Mariners trialist and fastest man on the planet, Usain Bolt.
“I’d actually like to race him to see how far behind him I am. See where I am at speed-wise,” he said.
Speed is in Austin’s genes. His late grandfather Reg Austin was a professional sprinter. His father Greg played rugby league for Manly and in Englandand was a noted flyer.
“I was lucky on that front,” he said. “My grandfather represented and dad was known for his speed as well. I made it to state in school but had so much soccer stuff going on, I didn’t pursue it any further.”
Although speed “is massive” in football, Austin wants to be more than just a flyer.
Like Andrew Nabbout and Joey Champess, he hopes to transform his game under Jets coach Ernie Merrick.
“The whole time has been about turning me into a goal scorer,” he said. “Ernie has changed my game up. At Victory, we were really structured in staying wide and being in zones. Ernie lets you roam around. You are harder to mark when you are zipping around the front third. I have been working on my shooting and, although I like to provide goals, if I can scoring more regularly I will be a greater asset to the team.”
Austin, who was born in England, spent two years at the Victory, which followed a break-out season for the Mariners.Prior to the A-League, he played in England where he helped Cambridge United to a FA Trophy in 2014 and promotion to the Football League.
“I messed around in England for a few years,” he said. “It was good to experience a different culture. I went to Wembley twice with Cambridge United.”
Now Austin’s focus is on a starting spot at the Jets, who kick off the season away to Wellington on Sunday.
“I have worked hard over the last nine months to get back playing,” he said. “I had been training on my own for so long.To be a part of a team again is a pretty good feeling.My knee is fine, it is just the mental side.The major thing for me is going in for tackles. There have been a couple of times where I am going through on goal and the keeper has come out …I still get a few flashbacks. It will take time, but it’s getting better each day at training.”