Mackenzie Barry on her way to realising footballing dreams with national call up
28 Jul 2017
Mackenzie Barry only started playing football because her friend's dad coached a team.
Now, 11 years on, the New Plymouth Girls' High School defender is gearing up to represent New Zealand at the Oceania Football Confederation's Under-16 Women's Cup in Samoa.
"He was a really good coach," she says about her introduction to the sport. "I actually started to like it and I just kept going from there."
After representing Taranaki and Central Federation teams from around the age of nine, Barry realised "'you know, I'm alright.'"
With the competition in Samoa, which runs from August 4-25, doubling as a qualifying tournament for next year's under-17 World Cup, Barry could find herself competing on the biggest stage in world football for her age group.
"I just kept training and going and here I am I guess."
To better her skills, the 16-year-old has been National Talent Centre (NTC) programmes for the past few years. In the past, there had been three across New Zealand, however this year there was just one.
It was there that she learned she was in with a shot to make the New Zealand squad.
"There was 32 girls I think, and I got invited to go again, the I got told I was in the wider New Zealand squad, and then I found out I was in the squad. It was so fast, suddenly we were talking about going to the World Cup.
"It's so surprising how quickly you can move forward."
Barry is the only Taranaki representative in the New Zealand squad set to take part in the tournament, which will see her take on nations such as Samoa, New Caledonia, Tahiti and Tonga.
"It's going to be a bit nerve-racking probably because there's going to be a lot of people watching and a lot of pressure, but NZ has done well in the past at these qualifier tournaments so it shouldn't be too bad."
"The only worry is school work really," the year-12 student says.
Barry has been honing her craft as a member of Girls' High's first XI since 2014. After dominating the local women's league in 2016, the school side made the leap into the women's Federation league, which has been a much better level for them.
Barry says it's much better for her as a defender this year with the team playing in the federation league. In 2016, Girls' High's first XI were rarely challenged and won by double figures most weeks.
"I didn't really like it that much," she says about the 2016 season.
"Everyone had fun because we never really failed, I guess, but I started playing more in the midfield so I could spend a bit more time on the ball, which was fun but it wasn't good because it meant I couldn't work on my defending. I prefer this year, it's more beneficial.
"Even though sometimes everyone thinks it's all about scoring goals, it is fun sometimes but no one is really getting anything out of it and it's good to lose sometimes.
While it never crossed her mind that she might have a chance to represent New Zealand at a World Cup, Barry is on the cusp of achieving just that.
"I just did it for fun," she says about playing football. "I didn't expect it at all but I'm really happy about it."