Seventeen-year-old Holly McCullagh has been playing indoor soccer since she was seven and took up competitive futsal just last year.
Already, she’s played internationally with her Melbourne-based team, the Bayside Pirates, and was selected to represented Victoria in the under 19s side at the 2018 Futsal National Championships held at the Australian Institute of Sport, Canberra, earlier this year.
Next week, the year 11 student will be competing at the 2018 Futsal State Club Championships in Caroline Springs in Melbourne.
Holly regularly catches the train to Melbourne for training and matches, and works part-time to save money to spend on her sport. To help with the cost of travelling to the national championships, Holly also received a grant under the Federal Government’s Local Sporting Champions program.
“I’ve been playing futsal for a long time, but I’ve never been able to play at a high level because I live in the country,” Holly said. “I’ve found it difficult to participate at a higher level because of the travel expenses. Receiving this grant helped me immensely.”
The Nationals Member for Gippsland Darren Chester recently met Holly to learn more about the challenges she faced as a talented young sportsperson from Bairnsdale.
“Holly’s story is a familiar one for many young people who live in regional areas. Distance from major sporting events and training venues can be a major hurdle for talented young sportspeople wanting to take their sport to a higher level,” Mr Chester said.
“These grants ease the burden on athletes aged between 12 and 18 who, like Holly, juggle part-time jobs, school, training and travel to pursue their dream of taking their sport as far as they can.”
In 2017, Holly worked part-time to save the money she needed to play at Futsal World Championships in Orlando, Florida, as a member of the under 16 girls Bayside Pirates Futsal team.
“The tournament was an amazing experience and we finished in third place. When we got back to Australia, trials for the national championships began. My coach strongly encouraged me to try out. I did and I was accepted into the under 19 girls team to play in Canberra.”
With no women’s national futsal team at the moment, Holly’s dream of playing for her country is on hold – for now.
For more information on the Local Sporting Champions grant program, visit https://www.ausport.gov.au/ais/grants_and_funding/local_sporting_champions .