Mel fuels Fire
By STEVE SPINKS
MULLUMBIMBY'S Mel McKenzie is one of Australia's elite netballers.
But don't think the co-captain of the Queensland Firebirds, who will open their Commonwealth Bank Trophy campaign tonight against the Hunter Jaegers in Brisbane, is rolling in cash.
Far from it.
In fact, after operations on an ankle and a knee during the off-season, the 25-year-old is spending more money on playing netball than she receives.
"Those operations cost $4000," McKenzie said.
"That is pretty much your payment for two seasons of netball. You're not really going into the black."
Even though they're not paid like full-time athletes, they are.
McKenzie, who is starting her fifth season with the Firebirds, said the team trained seven to eight times a week.
"Then there is the travel and games, and then appearances on top of that," she said.
Despite the obvious drawbacks, McKenzie loves the lifestyle of being a representative netballer and she believes full-time professionalism for her sport is not far away.
"I think it (professionalism) will come," she said.
"But it's at least five years down the track."
The goal keeper is hoping for an improved showing from the Firebirds this season, who finished second last in 2004.
"We just have to start learning how to win games again," McKenzie said.
"I think it could be a mental thing.
"I don't think we were that far away last season; it was just we lost concentration for one 15-minute quarter and let in 10 or 15 goals."
However, the full-time interior design student may miss the opening match at the Chandler Centre tonight with a knee injury.
McKenzie won't know until late this afternoon if coach Brenda Scherian will select her in the starting line-up.
She's hoping she will because there will be a hardcore group of family and friends attending the match.
"There's always about six or seven from down there who buy a season pass," McKenzie said.
"About twice a year they bring two busloads of supporters and some of the girls dress up in their rep uniforms.
"It's great seeing in the crowd the uniforms I used to wear."