Seeing Mackenzie Hawkesby’s name on the scoresheet is becoming a routine occurrence for fans when checking the score following a match.
Like many young players, Hawkesby burst onto the scene in the A-League Women, instantly impressing with her energy and clever footballing brain.
Two goals and two assists in eight starts last campaign is an impressive return for an advanced midfielder becoming part of the starting squad at Sydney for the first time, but it’s a speckle when compared to the stunning scoring rate this season.
Hawkesby spoke openly of her ambition to back up her performances with direct goal involvements often throughout an interview conducted with Kick360.
From the very start of this season, she has achieved just that in dividends.
In this campaign, Hawkesby has five goals and six assists in seven games – an average of 1.57 goals and assists per 90 minutes.
Currently, her six assists are three times more than the number she amassed last season, while her goal tally has also more than doubled.
The astonishing goal involvement numbers haven’t struck Hawkesby away, however – she is measured throughout the interview, consistently speaking of the team influence on her individual performances.
“I’m happy with my form at the moment”, she said.
“Obviously the team is doing really well and we’ve had a lot of success but it’s something that I’m happy with – I’ve wanted to back up my performances with assists and goals.
“I just want to keep pushing and obviously we have a really good squad at Sydney and hopefully if I stay focused, keep improving in my game and working hard I can keep the form up and add to my tally.
“I knew that this season I had to step up with the likes of Teresa (Polias) and Clare (Wheeler) leaving to help the team because their void was obviously huge.
“I’ve got a lot to improve on still and I want to keep pushing and pushing for future goals which I hopefully can achieve.”
Sydney has been in similarly stunning form this season, having created a four-point gap between them and second place in their seven games so far, although Melbourne City do have a game in hand.
“Obviously this season we’ve had a really good start”, Hawkesby said.
“I think it comes down to chemistry with the girls.
“A lot of the girls have been together for a number of years and we’ve built a really good foundation both in defence and attack, so it’s good to hit some really good form at the moment as a team where we’ve been doing really well.”
With Cortnee Vine and Remy Siemsen off on international duty, Hawkesby’s role in the side is becoming ever more integral.
Sydney hasn’t slowed down without two of their star attackers, striding on to a 6-0 win against Canberra United, with Hawkesby picking up another couple of assists to add to her strikingly impressive tally.
However, Hawkesby wasn’t an instant key player at first for Sydney FC.
She joined the Sky Blues as a nineteen-year-old and played six games without registering a start during the 2019-20 campaign.
Hawkesby was part of a squad featuring Matildas internationals Alanna Kennedy, Chloe Logarzo and Caitlin Foord, United States players Aubrey Bledsoe and Sofia Huerta as well as a host of young talent from Australia.
While she didn’t get the game time from the off, Hawkesby remembers the season fondly as a big part of her career thus far.
“That year was huge for me – I think it was pivotal in my career so far”, she said.
“We had a lot of talented players like Alannah, Caitlin and Chloe so just training alongside them was something that I think has really benefited my game so far.
“We had a really strong season and coming off the bench and learning how successful Sydney is and how good the club and culture is.”
The following season saw a major exodus of the more experienced Sydney players, with the average age of the squad dropping from 24.1 to 22.4.
Hawkesby became a crucial member of the midfield trident for Sydney, also featuring youngster Clare Wheeler and veteran Teresa Polias.
“We had a couple of internationals depart and I trained hard in pre-season and was able to get a spot”, Hawkesby remembered.
“I was grateful for that and to be able to play alongside Teresa Polias and Clare Wheeler in which again played a really big role in my season.
“I’ve tried to build my confidence from last season and hopefully I’m translating that into this season.”
Sydney stormed successfully on the competition, topping the table by three points with a win against rivals Melbourne Victory on the final game day.
They trampled a depleted Canberra United 3-0 in the semi-finals, a game that featured a trademark Hawkesby goal.
After Remy Siemsen lost the ball on the halfway line, clever counterpressing from Hawkesby won possession for Sydney.
She remained peripheral during the counter-attack, ghosting towards the back post before volleying home a cross from close range.
The win left them to face Melbourne Victory in the Grand Final, whom they defeated 2-1 in their last regular-season game.
An unusually exciting 0-0 draw at the end of the 90 minutes saw the game go into extra time, with Jada Whyman heroics denying Melbourne Victory their elusive opener.
Time and time again, the shot-stopper trumped the dangerous Melbourne Victory front line.
The sky blues looked to have somehow seen the score level, and penalties were inevitable.
However, the literal last kick of the game saw a Kyra Cooney-Cross corner lift its way into the net, as a stunning Olimpico saw Melbourne Victory clinch the title.
“Obviously last season wasn’t the way we wanted it to finish, but nevertheless it was a great campaign”, said Hawkesby.
The young midfielder spoke of the hunger it gives Sydney to go one better this season – the sky blues haven’t won the grand final with Hawkesby in the side.
“The grand final is something I haven’t won before and something we haven’t won in two years, so we definitely have our eyes on at the moment.
“Obviously we take it game by game, but we’re really focused not only on each game but at end goals.
“We’re definitely focused on the grand final and we really want to win.”
Sydney has more than recovered from the grand final loss in the offseason.
In their seven games this campaign, they have conceded just one goal whilst scoring 23 – an average of 3.3 per match.
Hawkesby has impressed substantially this season – her direct, clever passing, confidence in build-up play and pressing have stood out in the high-quality Sydney side.
Meanwhile, it’s hard not to mention the extraordinary direct goal involvements from Hawkesby, with her perfectly timed late runs into the box becoming a trademark part of her style of play.
“Making late runs into the box is something that I’ve tried to do for a cutback or anything like that”, she said.
“It’s something that I’ve tried to implement in my game and it’s worked well so far.
“Making that third man run from midfield is something that I think has worked really well and I think that has brought me a lot of success so far.”
While Hawkesby wasn’t selected for the Matildas’ Asian Cup squad, her incredible form can’t be going unnoticed by Matildas head coach Tony Gustavsson, and a callup in the aftermath of the tournament seems increasingly imminent.
“It would be a dream to get called up to the Matildas”, said Hawkesby.
“It’s something that I’ve been trying to work at since I started playing – I’m trying to do what I can to put my name out there.
“I’ve got a lot to improve on but being in an environment like Sydney does really help because I’ve got some really good players around me.
“I’m trying to get there, but hopefully I can just keep working hard and hopefully try and get a call in or try and make the squad for the 2023 world cup.”
For any attacking player, it’s remarkably satisfying to see your form backed up by direct goal involvements.
Hawkesby will be gaining a deserved amount of fulfilment when opening up her basic statistics to see her five goals and six assists in seven games; Considering the vast amount of experience under her belt, and confidence and classiness within her game, it’s easy to forget that Hawkesby is still just 21-years-old.
With her form becoming a more permanent level week by week, Hawkesby looks evermore set to provide Gustavsson with an already increasing number of selection headaches.
But in the present, the routine of seeing her name as a direct goal involvement following the match remains a contentment consistency.