ST KILDA Next-Generation Academy (NGA) member Cameron Mackenzie is no guarantee to make it to the red, white and black, but regardless of the colours he pulls on in 2023, the rising young gun is just grateful for his football experiences. Taking a journey along a road less travelled, the teenager spent a year in France alongside his South African-born father Rob and Canadian-born mother Delia, having been born in England before moving to Australia.
“It’s … a different journey from others but I’ve been very grateful for all the opportunities Ive had,” Mackenzie said. Especially with that trip to France, that is something that I’ll never forget and that taught me a lot about myself and the resilience I showed to have to learn a new language and deal with entering a new environment where it’s super unfamiliar. I’ve been very happy for the journey and also grateful for the opportunities.”
In 2022 alone, Mackenzie has tasted more than his fair share of success. Winning the NAB League premiership, AFL Under 18 Championships title and the APS shared crown with Sandringham Dragons, Vic Metro and Brighton Grammar respectively, there is no shortage of silverware for the youngster.
“I’ve been very happy with how the year’s gone, it’s been good to have a good year on an individual stand, but also have success as a team point as well,” Mackenzie said. To win the premiership at the Dragons and also win it at school footy is definitely something I’ll never forget. It shows that success I’ve had as a team as well, been very happy.”
Mackenzie has been a member of the Saints’ NGA since he was 15 years-old under the tutelage of current St Kilda AFLW coach Nick Dal Santo. The youngster credits Dal Santo with his development in the Academy and into the player he has become today.
“He’s definitely helped out all the boys as well as myself,” Mackenzie said. Not only from a skills perspective but also just checking in and making sure everyone’s tracking alright and feeling good. Then also all the gym work as well, having access to all those facilities definitely helped me improve.”
Along with his team success, Mackenzie was also named in the 2022 AFL Under 18 All-Australian team from the championships. It was a “massive honour” that rewarded the midfielder’s work over not just the carnival, but the entire year.
“I did feel like I put in the work this year so it was good to get some reward for effort,” Mackenzie said. To have my name in the All-Australian team and the best team across the champs was very special achievement that I’ll remember.”
The big talking point around Mackenzie is whether or not he will end up at Moorabbin, and the Saints are still a chance holding Pick 10. Though that will bump back to Pick 11 with the Ashcroft bid, Mackenzie could slide through to the red, white and black. The big threat is Hawthorn with coach Sam Mitchell incredibly keen on the youngster, while West Coast also has shown interest in bringing the midfielder across the other side of the country.
“I’ve actually grown up supporting Hawthorn,” Mackenzie said. When we moved over here, it was the first club, I just picked a club and said ‘why not?’ and it turned out to be a pretty good club with the premierships.
“The preference if I had to pick one it would be to stay in Melbourne but if I had to move interstate then I’d take on the opportunity and look to have an impact and have an influence in the club’s success and I would definitely enjoy it as well.”
Regardless of which colours he ends up in, Mackenzie said it was “super exciting” to know that he was on the verge of achieving his goal of reaching the top level.
“You do think about it a lot and it’s almost hard to know balance because you’ve still got to finish school and you’ve got so many important exams coming up,” Mackenzie said. You do notice your mind wandering about what the future might hold, but I’m just trying to stay present at the moment, finish school and do as well as I can and go from there and hopefully get my name read out by a club and make a good solid impact early on in my career is the goal.”