Oztag: Tess Pennefather a step closer to realising World Cup dream

Special moment: Tess Pennefather with father Garth after the two represented Australia at the Invitational Challenge last December.

Special moment: Tess Pennefather with father Garth after the two represented Australia at the Invitational Challenge last December.

Ever since watching her father, well-known Tamworth oztag identity Garth, pull on the green and gold Tess Pennefather had dreamed of doing the same.

In December the former Oxley Vale and Oxley High student achieved that goal, playing for the Australian under-20s mixed side at the Invitational Challenge.

Now she is looking to follow in his footsteps again and represent her country at the sport's showpiece event - the World Cup.

Last month Pennefather was named in the open women's extended squad ahead of next year's tournament in Ireland.

Now living on the Gold Coast where she is studying osteopathy at Southern Cross University, she said it would "be everything" to make the final squad.

"That would be the icing on the cake of everything I've been doing. It's a big dream of mine," she said.

She described making her debut last year as "super exciting", the thrill of suiting up in Australian colours for the first time amplified by the fact that she got to do it alongside her father.

They weren't in the same team - she was in the under-20s mixed and Garth the over-55s mens - but it was for both an experience they will never forget.

"It was honestly the proudest thing I've done in my life to play next to my dad for Australia," Tess said.

"He's my idol so it made it even better."

He has been a huge inspiration, and influence. She recalled how when she first started playing he used to take her down to the fields and help her train.

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For Garth, who has been part of the Australian set-up "on and off" since 2014 and won gold with the men's masters side at the last World Cup in 2018, it was a very proud and very special moment.

"It was probably the highlight of my oztag career," he said.

The Australian call-up topped off what was a "crazy" 2019 for Tess.

The 22-year old was crowned the Queensland female player of the year. It came after she was named the most valuable player for both the State Cup and Tri-Series tournaments.

Stretching out: Tessa in action

Stretching out: Tessa in action

"I was very lucky to win quite a few awards over the year," she said.

"I was a bit shocked by it all."

Not someone who made a lot of representative teams during her younger days, she said it feels like all the hard work she has been doing is starting to pay off.

It has been "a lot of individual training" and taken a lot of "individual motivation" with Pennefather remarking that she doesn't have the same resources as she did in Tamworth.

She spoke about the "massive influence" the likes of Zeta and Zahryn Knight and Geoff Sharpe, have been, and continue to be, for her.

Unfortunately the COVID-19 crisis has meant it has been over a month since she has had a footy in her hands, and she is counting the days down until she can.

"I'm excited to get back on the field," Pennefather said.

"I miss it a lot. It took up all my week. I play two-three times a week up here and I was training four or five times a week."

Until then, she is just trying to keep herself as fit as she can so that whenever the final World Cup trial is announced she is "ready for it".

This story Tess Pennefather follows in father Garth's boots first appeared on The Northern Daily Leader.