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2 November 2023 • Community

Athletics for Everybody – Malia Steinmetz

Malia Steinmetz believes competing for her local athletics club provided the foundation for her future footballing success. (Credit: Getty Images)

As part of our Athletics for Everybody campaign we focus on a number of individuals who formed their foundation skills at their local athletics club before going on to flourish in other sports. In the latest in our series, we put the spotlight on Football Ferns star Malia Steinmetz who reflects on her time at Hillsborough Junior Athletics Club.

As an energetic and hard-working midfielder Malia Steinmetz was undoubtedly one of the heroes of the Football Ferns historic efforts at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup earlier this year.

Yet providing one of the pillars to her success was her background for many years at Hillsborough Junior Athletics Club which the 24-year-old footballer credits as forming the foundation for her athletic prowess.

A former sprinter and long jumper, Malia still holds a host of age-group club records from the age of seven to 11 during her time competing for the Auckland club.

“It helped me with my dynamism and developed good running form which I’ve been able to take on through my football career,” explains Malia, who plays professionally for Nordsjaelland in the top division of the Danish league.

First taken to Hillsborough Junior Athletics Club from the age of “six or seven” by her parents she has many happy memories of her time there before stepping away from athletics to fully focus on football from the age of 14.

“I remember running barefoot, sitting down and picking away at the grass,” she recalls. “My mum used to cook the same dinner before every club night and then my favourite part was the sausage sizzle at the end. Long jump was always my favourite event, so I was always happy when it was on the schedule. I really enjoyed it and made some good friends. I’m just surprised that I still have all these club records. I thought they’d be long gone by now.

“One of my big sprint rivals back then was Jacqui Hand of the Pakuranga club (who is now a fellow Football Fern),” she says. “I raced her quite a bit. I would often win, and she would finish second of third. I have this picture of when we were seven or eight and we both look like babies.”

Malia went on to compete and win medals at North Island Colgate Games and she was gifted enough to make the New Zealand team for the annual Trans-Tasman showdown with Australia as an under-12 athlete. Competing for her country she finished third in the long jump in the event which was staged at Douglas Track & Field in West Auckland and she recalls the buzz she got out of the competition.

“I remember versing this tall Aussie girl, it was nice to meet the Aussies and other athletes from all around the country,” she says. “I raced athletes like Georgia Hulls, and another big one was the All Black Caleb Clarke, who raced at the same events I competed at.”

Malia may have since gone on to enjoy a successful football career winning 23 international caps for her country and playing for Perth Glory and Western Sydney Wanderers in the A League but she feels her athletics background regularly bears fruit, particularly during running drills.

“We also have a number of high intensity running drills in training which involve lots of changes of direction. We are regularly timed over 30m, where I am one of the best in the team. It is handy to have that speed background (from athletics).”

Today Malia still follows the sport. She is always keen to monitor the progress of two-time World Championships sprint representative Georgia Hulls as well as Oceania 100m record-holder Zoe Hobbs.

Yet whatever the standard athlete and whatever your future sporting aspirations, Malia insists kids should pop along to their local athletics club this summer and give the sport a go.

“During my time as a club athlete it was definitely the people that made it,” she adds. “I’ve still got some great friends today I made from competing at my athletics club. It was healthy to have that fun competition without needing lots of equipment. It is so easy to turn up and run barefoot.”

To find out more about how to join your local athletics club go here