Barooga netball young gun Mackenzie O’Dwyer has helped TeamVic claim bronze in the 12-years-and-under section at the School Sports Australia tournament.
The tournament, held in Canberra from September 15 to 20, saw the Cobram Anglican Grammar School student, 11, come up against some of the best young players from across the country, with teams from Queensland, NSW, ACT, South Australia, Western Australia, Northern Territory and an invitational indigenous side, the Budgies, taking part.
In a round robin format, Victoria played each side twice across six gruelling days of competition with most days, barring the final, consisting of three, eight-minute quartered games.
Each player was allowed a maximum of eight quarters a day, which tested even the most weary-hardened as the pace and intensity of each game was frantic.
O’Dwyer was given a defensive role, one which she took to with aplomb, considering it was not her favoured position with the Barooga Hawks, usually playing in the attacking third at club level and in the centre of the court for the Murray Netball League representative side.
She found the defensive role challenging, especially as she had her training program on being a shooter, but she displayed a consistent and athletic ability to regularly turn the ball back into Victoria’s favour, which quickly earned her the respect of her teammates, coaching staff and supporters. These exploits helped O’Dwyer establish herself as a key player, starting seven games.
She was also battling a lower back injury which she sustained on the third day of competition, along with a rolled ankle, but managed to overcome this and make her presence felt, especially on the final day.
The Victorians finished the first round in fifth spot with four wins and three losses. The side played some hard, exciting and well-executed netball to finish as the best team in the second round, winning five games, drawing one and losing the other.
TeamVic finished overall in equal third position with Western Australia, finishing behind runners-up South Australia and champions Queensland.
Coming away from the championships, O’Dwyer said she had done `‘pretty well'’ and that her favourite part of the experience was playing at a high intensity for each game and making so many new friends from all of the teams.
“I loved meeting new people and making new friends,” she said.
“Not only with the great girls from the Victorian team but from the other states as well, in particularly Western Australia, Northern Territory and the ACT.
“I got to play with some awesome players and against some amazing netballers.
“It was great fun and I wish it didn’t have to end.”
O’Dwyer thanked the people who supported her to get to this point.
“Thanks to everyone who has helped me financially and personally, including Sporties, Barooga Football Netball Club and all those from school and the community who gave individual sponsorship or purchased chocolates, scrunchies or raffle tickets – it all helped.”
The Barooga product is looking to continue with her netball and hoped a professional career in the game was not out of the question.
“I would love to play netball at the highest level, Suncorp netball and then with the Australian Diamonds,” she said.