Ashleigh Sykes has played football at the highest level of the game. The former Canberra United striker, who scored forty times for the team in green during two spells with the club, also graced the international scene with the Matildas netting five times in nineteen caps. But her career began on the fields of Canberra in the McDonald’s Kanga Cup.
Sykes was a part of the Dubbo Devils team, alongside her twin sister Nicole who also played for the Matildas and reminisces fondly about her time playing in the Southern Hemisphere’s largest youth international tournament.
“There were so many memories that came from playing in Kanga Cup as a kid,” Sykes recalled. “Our team, the Dubbo Devils, made it into the Grand Final of our division and there was a lot of face paint and hair dye going on for that big game.
“It was exciting to be a part of a team environment like that. The other memories I have are of all the off field adventures my family and friends did while we were in Canberra. Museums, bush walks and movie nights were some highlights.
“Up until that point, I hadn’t had an opportunity to experience tournament football. Some of my teammates were probably the same, coming from a country area where those opportunities didn’t exist at the time.”
As a player Sykes has many memories of the competition but, in recent years, has had the opportunity to see life from the other side of the fence so to speak, as a coach of team that was taking part in the All-Abilities event.
“A couple of years ago I got a chance to manage the All Abilities competition of Kanga Cup which was lots of fun,” Sykes said. “The players competed in fantastic fashion and were a great example of what team spirit and sportsmanship involves.”
Team spirit sand sportsmanship are vital and are at the heart of the McDonald’s Kanga Cup, alongside the mantra that has been part of this festival for football for the past three decades. Football. Fun. Friendship.
Those words are what keeps people coming back for me with many of the entrants taking part in the 2022 edition returning multiple times over the years, but the 30th Anniversary event promises to be a extra special.
“Kanga Cup had such a great buzz around it,” Sykes remembers. “All the fields in Canberra full of footballers and their families in their team colours, the opening ceremony walking around with your team’s banner, lots of cheering from the sidelines around you.
“It was a fantastic experience to feel the pressure of playing in big games, or what I thought were big games at the time and having fun with your friends throughout a week full of football. Enjoy the week and happy birthday to this special event.”
Registration for the McDonald’s Kanga Cup is open now and closes on 27th May.
The 2022 McDonald’s Kanga Cup. Football. Fun. Friendship. Be There!