Fri. Jul 1st, 2022

Mackenzie Hawkesby still can not quite believe she’s here.

We’re sitting at the headquarters of Football Australia in Sydney on a clear, crisp morning in early June. The 22-year-old is wearing a sky blue Matildas polo, still with its fold marks and fresh-from-the-box smell. The bright green logo of “Australia” catches the light as she looks out across the harbor.

She shakes her head slightly in disbelief.

“This is honestly a dream come true,” she says.

Young woman sits on a bench, she is smiling.
Hawkesby says it’s a great opportunity for her to show what she can do.(Supplied: Matildas)

It’s a bit of a cliché line for footballers these days, but when you listen to Hawkesby’s story, you believe every word of it; you begin to understand just how powerful a dream can be.

Because Mackenzie Hawkesby’s story is not typical. Her journey does not go smoothly from A to B, like that of most prodigious footballers.

Instead, it’s been more of a maze that has taken her mostly backwards or sideways over the course of her career.

“My story is a little bit different,” she says.

“I was playing at Figtree and I was playing with the boys until I was in under-12s because we did not have a girls’ league at all [in Wollongong]. And then I moved to the Illawarra Stingrays, and from there I moved to the NSW Institute.

“I’ve been traveling up to Sydney my whole life. I haven’t played much in the national teams; I’ve only been called up to the under-20s once. I was never really in the frame for anything.

“I went to the Wanderers, I was signed but I did not play. And I’ve sort of just been in and around the league. I was lost. I wasn’t sure if I was going to get a W-League contract again. It felt like it was all over before it really began. “

By the time she was in her late teens, Hawkesby was already a footballing journeywoman, jumping from club to club with a slowly dwindling hope that she would reach the future she had always imagined for herself: representing the Matildas.

But after spending a season in reserve-grade with Sydney University, it finally happened. Sydney Olympic – an emerging giant of the Australian women’s club game – came knocking.

A female soccer player wearing blue and yellow looks at the ball near another player in orange and black
Mackenzie Hawkesby was playing in reserve grade for Sydney University only a few years ago.(Supplied: KLZ Photography / Kellie Lemon)

Or, more specifically, Olympic technical director and Sydney FC head coach Ante Juric did.

“I was lucky enough to see [Hawkesby] at the NSW Institute when I was with [Football Australia]”Juric, who previously worked with the Junior Matildas, told ABC Sport.

“I remember her bombing on, I remember her motor, I remember her fight and her creativity, and just thinking, ‘gee, this girl is good’. I’d had her name written down on a piece of paper, but no- one selected her; no-one else picked her up.

“And then a couple of years later, I saw her again randomly and was like, ‘why aren’t you playing W-League?’. So I brought her in.

“I’m so proud because she came from nowhere, but has taken the league by storm.”

Sitting here now, Hawkesby tears up realizing the importance of that sliding-doors moment.

Since meeting Juric and joining Sydney FC in 2019, she’s gone from a fringe player whose dreams were fading to one of the country’s most exciting young footballers.

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