Narooma’s latest athletic star has returned to town with a gold medal around her neck and wearing her Australian team tracksuit.
Lilly-Rose Bennett, 16, was part of the gold-medal winning Rugby 7s team at the Youth Commonwealth Games held in the Bahamas.
She was still jet-lagged when we caught up with her at Australia Rock for an interview and some photos.
“Playing the game was the best part, it was just amazing,” Lilly-Rose said. “And winning gold was even better.”
The 24-hour flight back from the Bahamas was a long one but the trip over seemed even longer due to missed flights and the team being split up to get there however they could.
Lilly-Rose scored an amazing 11 tries during the six matches, with her natural speed made good use of out on the wing. She also played a total of 42 minutes at the games, getting a good slice of time on the field despite the system of subbing where players don’t return to the match after being subbed out.
Sporting achievement runs in the family and her speed seems to be inherited.
Her father Justin Bennett back in 2014 proved himself to be one of the world’s fastest men on sand, winning two silver medals for Australia in the Masters Category at the World Life Saving Championships in France.
“He has been big inspiration for me and I would like to thank him for that,” she said.
This was also not the first time overseas to compete as Lilly-Rose and her cousin Connor Griffiths were selected by Sports Australia represent Australia in athletics on a trip to Canada in 2014.
That was the same year her grandfather Bob Bennett was recognised with an Order of Australia Medal for his contributions to sport of rugby league and the community.
Lilly-Rose also thanked everyone who had supported her latest trip overseas to play in the Youth Commonwealth Games.
“I just want to thank everyone for their support and I want to say big thank-you to Batemans Bay footy club for their donations and Narooma High School and Little Athletics,” she said. “I couldn't of done it without you guys! I would also like to thank my family and friends as well you guys were a massive help.”
So where to from here for Lilly-Rose?
She plans on finishing up high school and is set to start Year 12 at Narooma High School next year, although there has been talk of her going to specialist sports school in Canberra.
While her Narooma Devils ladies league tag side is out of the Group 16 rugby league competition, she was travelling up to Sydney this weekend to play with Batemans Bay Tigers women’s rugby league side.
She said she will keep training, working on her speed and fitness and also going to the gym, with the ultimate goal to be eventually selected to the senior women’s Rugby 7s side, who will attempt to repeat their own gold-medal winning performance at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo in 2020.
Father Justin Bennett said he had faith in his daughter, whatever she chose to do.
“It’s all up to her,” he said. “I am sure of regardless what she chooses, she will go on to be a success.”