by Jeremy Walker
From almost quitting the game to getting called up for the Matildas last June, Sydney FC midfielder Mackenzie Hawkesby has certainly proved the doubters wrong.
The 22-year-old star, who was born in Wollongong, has quickly risen to become one of the best midfielders in the Liberty A-League – recently touring Spain and Portugal with the Matildas last year.
But Hawkesby’s journey to the top has not been all plain sailing.
It was just sort of at a point where I was thinking about not playingMackenzie Hawkesby
“When I finished NSW Institute of Sport I was in and out of clubs like Sydney Uni or Illawarra Stingrays and then back to Sydney Uni, and I guess I didn’t really find my feet,” said Hawkesby.
“I didn’t fit styles of play and it just wasn’t clicking for me and eventually I left Sydney Uni halfway through the season because I wasn’t enjoying it and I went to Sydney Olympic, and that’s sort of what started my career and I was able to do well at that club.
“Before I was at the Wanderers and I didn’t get on the field, didn’t get a single minute. I was signed with them though and it was just sort of at a point where I was thinking about not playing.
“And then the move to Sydney Olympic helped me get into Sydney FC and ever since then it’s quite crazy when you think about how quickly things change.”
And change they did, with Hawkesby going on to win the Sky Blues Women’s Player of the Year award for 2021/22 after recording a prolific five goals and ten assists last campaign.
The playmaker’s productive season also saw her included in 2022’s PFA Team of the Season, with Hawkesby benefitting from Sydney FC’s attacking brand of football.
“The players we have this season – from Cort [Cortnee Vine] to Madi [Madison Haley] to Prinny [Princess Ibini], the season’s before, and with the Matildas you have Caitlin Foord, Remy Siemsen – I’ve been able to play with some really top attacking players,” Hawkesby said.
“It’s brought out the best in me because we bring such amazing players and people to this club [Sydney FC], I’ve made connections with these attacking players for the last three or four years, it just hasn’t built in a year.
“I think that’s another important thing, that the core of our team has been together for the last three years so it’s quite fun playing in this team. We pride ourselves on attack but our defence is also a huge aspect to us too.”
Humble in her approach and quick to praise her teammates, Hawkesby will look to maintain her stellar form which saw her play an integral role in Sydney FC’s back-to-back Premiership wins over the last two seasons.
So far this campaign, the midfielder has three goals and five assists in just 14 appearances – helping to put the Sky Blues in a strong position to claim a third consecutive Premiership.
And with her mind fully focused on Sydney FC duties, Hawkesby is hoping club form will put her in contention to be selected in the Matildas squad for the upcoming Women’s World Cup.
“Of course it’s in the back of my mind,” Hawkesby explained. “I think a lot of girls in our team have been in and around [the Matildas squad], especially someone like Cort who’s a mainstay in there.
“It definitely is something that I want to achieve, I’d love to try and break into that squad. Obviously it’s very competitive but our team is very special here and what I do for Sydney is very important. If I play well at Sydney and I help this team, you never know what can happen.
“Every session, every day, all of us are pushing to break into the national team, so I guess you just got to keep going and I just keep turning up every day and work hard.”
Striving for Matildas World Cup selection, Hawkesby can certainly “feel the hype” ahead of the tournament – eagerly anticipating the large crowds expected to hit Australia and New Zealand.
“I can feel the hype even when I go down to my local community and I see players playing in tournaments,” said Hawkesby.
“The World Cup being on home soil is going to be huge. Seeing the crowds come to the women’s game will be unbelievable and I think that it will really show how big the A-Leagues is for both men and women, obviously the Socceroos have also done really well.
“Because it’s on home soil the crowds will attract so much and generate more hype. As I said, you can see it in communities already – more people are wanting to play soccer and participate.”
Understanding what the World Cup can bring to a nation, Hawkesby also understands what music can do for people too – with the midfielder assigned as Sydney FC’s resident DJ.
The playmaker says she likes to ensure her music is “appealing to everyone” – but is uncertain whether or not the squad approves.
“Do the girls like it? I don’t know!” said Hawkesby. “I like to make sure I’m appealing to everyone but I like pop, old school pop, so I’m very basic!
“I like old school Rihanna, Dua Lipa, Harry Styles – I’m very generic and a lot of the girls laugh at that! I also put rap in there, Drake and everything for the girls but I don’t know if the girls will say I’m the best DJ – but I’ve just taken over this year.
“I’m also a huge Taylor Swift fan and I’m not going deny that!”
Perhaps gaining more plaudits for her performances on the pitch than as a DJ, Hawkesby is certain to continue to play a vital role in Sydney FC’s title charge as the Sky Blues hunt down a third successive Premiership crown.