When Lilty-Rose Bennett was told she had made the Australian youth rugby sevens squad for the Commonwealth Games in April, she thought it was a joke.
“Dad rang me up saying that I made the youth Commonwealth Games team and I didn't believe him,” Bennett says with a laugh.
“I thought he was just mucking around until he started crying over the phone. Then I knew he wasn’t joking and it was a really heart-warming moment.”
After a few months of intensive training the Narooma 16-year-old is in Queensland for last-minute preparations before flying out to the Bahamas to compete next week.
The young winger, who has been seen as a prodigy in both rugby union and league-tag made a start in the sport through school and said she was all but speechless to pull on an Australian jumper.
“Words can’t describe it, I’m just so excited,” she said.
She’s renowned for her speed with experience as a sprinter, but expects meeting some of the world’s best on the field next week – they will match her.
“My speed is my skill and I can’t recall ever being chased down after breaking the line, but I am sure it will happen,” she said.
She will be just one of more than 1300 athletes from more than 70 Commonwealth countries descending on the Caribbean island chain to compete across six separate disciplines and her local rugby club has been quick to throw support behind the debutante.
Batemans Bay Boars Rugby Union club spokesperson Peter Ryan said the club was “very excited”.
“The club has been able to provide some support from both the juniors and seniors – it’s an incredible opportunity [for her],” he said.
Bennett said she was thrilled to get the chance to compete.
“I’m in it for the football, but the venue is certainly an amazing bonus,” she said with a laugh.
For her, it’s all part of a broader love of the game.
“I just love football altogether,” she said. “The feeling of being on the field and the atmosphere around it is the best feeling – the crunch of the hits or the exhilaration of you or your team-mates making a run – it’s amazing to be a part of that.”
Bennett said she owed so much of her success to her Dad.
“He takes me everywhere and his support has been amazing, from getting up early and putting up with my moodiness for most of the trips … he does a really good job handling that,” she says with a laugh.
“So thank you Dad and I love you millions.”
Games will run across five days from Wednesday to Sunday.