Maddison Smith has spent much of her teenage years looking up to Gerringong’s Grace Stewart, playing with and learning from the Hockeyroo.
Now she is one step closer to following in Stewart’s footsteps and representing Australia at the Olympic Games.
The 18-year-old has been selected in the Australian junior team to compete at October’s Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires.
“It’s really exciting, the opportunity to play overseas is awesome,” Smith said. “It’s the Youth Olympics, so it’s a full on Olympic event which will be a cool experience.
“I had been working towards this goal since I found out it was something we could possibly play at at the end of last year.”
The same age as Stewart’s younger sister Lily and just three years younger than Grace, Smith has had the opportunity to play alongside Grace in numerous Illawarra and NSW teams.
The duo often travel to training in Sydney together and Smith views Stewart as someone she can always turn to for advice.
“We’ve played together for Illawarra South Coast since I was 11,” Smith said. “She’s a couple of years older than me but we train in Sydney together and often travel to training together. We played and won under 21 nationals together in Wollongong last year and also played in the AHL together last year.
“She’s a bit of an older sister for me. If I need help, I’ll go to her and talk to her.”
Smith played an important role in Australia’s qualification for the tournament, featuring at the Oceania Youth Olympic Games Qualifier. Australia was unbeaten at the tournament, with Smith scoring 11 goals, including a hat-trick in the final.
The Albion Park product may have had a successful qualification tournament in front of goal, but she typically plays as a defender and it’s a role she relishes.
“I feel I’m suited to defence because I’m a good tackler. Defence wins games and I like saving goals at crucial moments.”
With the hockey competition to be played as a five-a-side tournament, the Australians will come together for a number of pre-event camps to adjust to the different style of play required.
“I’ll keep training with NSWIS over the next few months, it’s a very different style of hockey so we’ll be training for that style.Then we have a couple of camps in Sydney before we head off to Argentina.
“It’s hard to say who our biggest competition will be as the Australian women didn’t go to the last Youth Olympics. The European teams and China are always good and Argentina as hosts will be tough.”