By Otago Daily Times | Posted: Sunday November 19, 2017
Josh Mackie has had a taster of AFL's highest level and now he is a step closer to getting there.
The 18-year-old has been given a scholarship by AFL New Zealand, having impressed CEO Robert Vanstam while playing for New Zealand at the International Cup in Melbourne earlier this year.
The scholarship will enable the year 13 Otago Boys' High School pupil to travel to and from Auckland cost-free next year to play in the nine-week national league.
That would be a big boost, as it would enable him to play in every round of the competition.
Without having that cost covered the past two years, he had played six weeks of the competition last year and three weeks the year before, flying there and back for each weekend.
Last year he had played for the Northern Suns, but with the retention and draft process yet to take place, he was unsure who he would play for this year.
He said getting to play at that higher level had helped his game improve a lot and getting more regular exposure would be key to continuing to get better.
Having been the youngest player on the New Zealand team that finished second at the International Cup, he was keen to get another taste of the big time.
''It was a real awesome time,'' he said.
''I ended up playing two of the five games we did play. I kind of expected that, being the youngest in the team.
''But it was still a great experience. I learnt so much from everyone and got to experience the culture over there, which was real good for me.
''Looking into the future that would be a place I'd want to go.''
While he did not get to play in the final on the Melbourne Cricket Ground, he got to run around on the turf.
''It's quite intimidating, really, because it's just massive.
''You're just surrounded by seats and people and you feel like you're just tiny.''
Set to finish school at the end of the year, he was unsure what 2018 held.
However, whatever he decided to do, his scholarship would act as a motivator as he continues to strive towards his ultimate goal of making the AFL.
''It's a big motivator for me, really.
''It shows me that someone's watching, someone's looking out, so I'll keep proving and keep doing my thing.''
Thank you to the ODT for the use of this article