By Mathew Asciak
Born into a family with a passion for playing elite sport, former North Melbourne rookie Tom McKenzie is eager to set the VFL alight, in his maiden VFL season with Coburg in 2021.
Starting his footballing journey at the beginning of Prep, began to play Auskick as many young kids do. His dad played a major role in this choice, saying he was a big influence on his desire to play. “He’s always been a big football supporter so he got me into that as soon as possible,” McKenzie said.
The McKenzie family have all been involved in sport. “My dad played football. Mum was more into Netball and she played a bit of indoor cricket, along with some other sports,” McKenzie said. The most recent member of the family to play football is his younger sister Ellie McKenzie, who has made great strides in her debut season for Richmond in the AFLW, after being selected as the number one pick in the 2021 draft.
Despite footy being his main focus in his sporting life, McKenzie was also an accomplished cricketer. “I loved my Cricket. I played at Clifton Hill in the juniors, seniors and a little bit of rep.” However, when footy season rolled around, it took a back seat and pursuing his AFL dream became his priority.
Speaking about the recent success for Ellie and her footballing career, McKenzie indicates that regardless of whether Ellie played AFLW, it has “always been my dream to play AFL,” but still considers it to be a “driving factor” to continue working towards pursuing a spot on an AFL list once again.
During his junior career at Fitzroy, his dad continued to have great influence on his career. “Dad was my coach from under 10’s up until college,” McKenzie said. Having a family network with a strong passion for sport has no doubt being a great tool for guidance and motivation to succeed at the highest level.
Reminiscing about his junior career, McKenzie has fond memories of his time playing for Ivanhoe Grammar, reaching the Grand Final during year 11. “That was pretty special… when I was in year 11, we managed to make the Grand Final, played Marcellin at Marcellin, I was at Ivanhoe Grammar. There was a massive crowd there, we didn’t get over the line, but that’s probably the most exciting and biggest game of football I have played in, McKenzie said.”
During the 2018 TAC Cup season, McKenzie only managed to feature in seven games. Despite his lack of appearances, as he was managing commitments with school, averaging 23 disposals, earning his place as one of the half-back flankers in the TAC Cup Team of the Year.
Recounting his decision to sign for Coburg for the 2021 season, McKenzie praises the strong family, team orientated culture that has been built within the club and the wider Coburg community. “It’s such a team and family orientated club and I know a lot of people here already and all they say is how much they love the club and being able to be a standalone club as well,” McKenzie said.
McKenzie has played in various positions during his career thus far, predominantly across half-back and in the midfield. Spending a lot of time alongside the midfield group allows McKenzie to add weapons to his arsenal to become a more complete player. “You have guys like JB (Jacob Ballard) in the midfield who has a lot of experience and players coming from other clubs like Charlie Thompson and Marcus Lentini… being able to watch what they do is awesome and having players from different aspects of the game and sharing their knowledge has been really good,” McKenzie said.
“I was talking with Sturg (Andrew Sturgess) and I could be playing multiple positions this year, I think we have a really deep midfield and a lot of players will go through there,” McKenzie said. With the valuable additions to the Lions midfield, McKenzie will be deployed predominantly as an outside midfielder and across half-back, enabling him to utilise his pace.
The events of last year caused the VFL season to be cancelled entirely, giving players a long period without any form of games or even training, giving McKenzie ample time to focus on being fit for the upcoming season. “Personally, for me I just tried to use all that time to get as fit and as strong as I can. I had a couple injuries in there, so if anything it taught me about moderation in terms of how hard I should be pushing myself,” McKenzie said.
Having been on the North Melbourne list in 2019, McKenzie’s personal goal is to reach that level once again. “I am playing VFL to get drafted, that’s my main goal. My first thought in mind is just to play some really good footy, get games and see what happens. Obviously, I would be looking at the mid-season draft, but if not, the end of season draft,” McKenzie said.
Away from footy, McKenzie has just begun studying Sports Management at Latrobe University this year. “I am at Latrobe… and I’ll start that this year,” McKenzie said. “I just spend my time watching movies and TV series and I don’t mind playing Golf,” McKenzie added.