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©2019 by Darling Downs Panthers.

Introducing Panther Ada McKenzie

My Name is Ada and this is my first year playing for the Panthers- and I am absolutely loving it. Anyway, before we jump straight in, just a quick snippet of my history before we get into the juicy stuff. I practically grew up on the sideline of a netball court. My mum starting coaching netball at Downlands College when I could barely walk, she still coaches today up at Fairholme.  Both my aunties were also avid netballers so it seemed like a natural progression that I would pop a netball bib on and take to the court as soon as I could walk!  Growing up I loved all sports; athletics, cross country, touch football, basketball – you name it, I have tried it. However, there was just something special about netball.  I felt a real connection to the game and still do today.

 I started out playing for Rata.  My first rep season was with Toowoomba but I made the move the following year to Highfields, under Bec Stower’s guidance.  She would call us the “Baby Originals” because back in those days there were only two teams that played rep under Highfields.  I still regard some of my fellow “Baby Originals” as my best friends. I went to academy and trialled for state (through the schoolgirl pathway).  I never made it and was obviously saddened at the time, but as Bec would say – ‘chin up, just keep working’. I would work so hard, sometimes training every day of the week- but it felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere. Was netball just a sport I played in school? Was it just something to keep me fit? Would I ever be good enough to step up and make higher teams? Was all this going be worth it?

In Grade 12 all my Highfields netball team mates played Panthers, but I didn’t. I was playing for school and focused on my social life and schooling, always trying to chase that elusive balance of LIFE.  However, reflecting on it now I really missed playing at that higher level – I kind of felt that I was in a little comfort bubble. I lost my real ‘mongrel’ and fight for the ball. I had seen articles when I was younger claiming that when girls hit their late teens they tend to fall off the ‘sport wagon’.  Reading these, I remember saying something like “no way I am never quitting sport, I love it and don’t care what everyone else is doing.” Well, even though young, little Ada would slap 17-year-old me for even contemplating giving up netball, I did. I moved to Brisbane, started University and began the next chapter of my life. I wasn’t doing any sport- sometimes I would go for runs but I would just get bored and probably end up watching some Netflix, maybe with some junk food ‘#keepingitreal’. I put on weight, I lost all my motivation and to be honest I was in a terrible state, my whole world went upside down. One day I woke up and decided to stop feeling sorry for myself and grab life by the balls. My massive YOLO moment (kinda cringe term but still live by it). I moved back to Toowoomba and asked Bec to let me come train for the last half of the season.

Little side note – Bec is like a second mum to me, she knows me probably better than I know myself. She is a great coach, mentor, counsellor and friend.  Every single Panthers girl would back me on this. I am very grateful to have her and thankful for her believing in me. Even when I didn’t. Okay enough soppy stuff let’s move on.

It was hard at first because it was all train no game, but it was better than nothing. It was difficult at the start, trainings where intense and I would get so frustrated that my body couldn’t do what it used to. It took a long time, but I started to get the mongrel back. (Shout out to the coaches for putting me through hell in trainings!)  Nothing is better than stepping onto a netball court and giving it your all. But then the season ended, and it was almost back to square one, but I had a goal in sight – which gave me a purpose to endure the gruelling pre-season.  I lost weight, regained a bit of ‘15 year old Ada’ fitness and rekindled my love for the game.  It’s funny, while I feel like my fitness is still improving, I feel like my mental game is stronger than it has ever been.  Maybe that comes with majority and experience.  I am happy with the level of netball I am playing now.  I am determined to be the best I can be on that court not only for me but for the team. I am the happiest I have ever been, and my life is going great. Now the Netflix and junk food is still happening, (every now and then), but hey we are only human.

Taking that year off did set me back a little but it was needed for me to reflect and to realise how much I really do love the sport. I now have my little sister, Millie, following me around the netball court. I hope I can instil the same passion in her as my Mum did to me. Only up from here- shout out to everyone who helped me along the way especially my Mum.