From reserves to regista: The rise of Sydney FC star Mackenzie Hawkesby

Mackenzie Hawkesby still can’t 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.

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 isn’t typical. Her journey doesn’t 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 the under-12s because we didn’t 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 didn’t 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 blackA 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 have 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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