Maddi Smith says the experience of representing the Hockeyroos has her choc full of confidence as she prepares for her third Hockey One League season.
The Albion Park product will lead NSW Pride when they kick off their campaign on Saturday night against the Blaze in Brisbane. The Pride are defending women's champions in Hockey One, which is Australia's premier domestic outdoor hockey competition.
This year's league will feature a distinct Illawarra/South Coast flavour, with nine locals representing the region across the men's and women's grades.
The tournament is another key landmark in an already huge 2023 for Smith, who made her long-awaited Hockeyroos debut in February when she was called up for the FIH Pro League. Fast-forward to October and the 23-year-old now has 13 international caps next to her name.
Smith, who took up the sport when she was about four, told the Mercury that it was a dream come true to represent her country.
"Getting some Hockeyroos caps behind me this year has given me a lot of confidence in my own ability," she said.
"It's been absolutely massive for me. You train hard for so long and sometimes you don't really believe it's going to come for you, but you've got to keep your head down, and keep looking forwards and not sideways. So to get a few (games) under my belt has been great.
"It was always something that I really wanted."
While hungry for more international exposure, Smith's attention is now solely on guiding the Pride to further success in 2023.
After making her Hockey One debut in 2021, the Illawarra talent - who is a NSW Institute of Sport scholarship holder - was elevated to be the side's co-captain last year. It was a move that seemed to work for both Smith and her team, as the Pride claimed the 2022 title by beating Brisbane in the grand final.
NSW have now retained the majority of their squad as they aim to win back-to-back crowns.
"It's really exciting to go out with a similar team to last year. We haven't really been training together, but it gives me confidence that we've mostly all played together," Smith said.
"I was co-captain last year so that was a jump in responsibility for me last year, but I'm looking for a similar kind of thing this year by stepping up a little bit more."
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