MAHALIA Cassidy is the kind of person you’d have a half-hour chat to if you sat next to her on the train.
In this conversation it’s also a fair chance Mahalia wouldn’t mention the fact that at 19 years of age she has already represented the Australian under-21 netball team and recently turned heads in the ANZ Championship pre-season competition as part of the Queensland Firebirds mid-court.
Her selflessness wouldn’t allow this, preferring to talk about her friends, family, going to the beach, even jet-skiing.
This is how Mahilia grew up, an individual acutely aware of the necessity for balance, spirituality, academics and social skills, all the while managing to pursue a budding sporting career.
Mahalia was one of four girls (two older, one younger) raised in a Catholic household by parents Kathy and Mark Cassidy.
Each of the Cassidy girls attended St John Fisher College, Bracken Ridge, a Catholic school for girls in the northern suburbs of Brisbane.
The school’s motto is to teach goodness, knowledge and discipline – personality traits essential to the Catholic faith.
By embracing these values the Cassidy girls have become somewhat of a dynasty at St John Fisher, each having been sports captain in their senior years.
Mahalia beams when asked about her time at school, speaking about her friends and teachers with great fondness.
“I loved all my friends; we had a great grade, the teachers made it cool and Father Chinua (said amidst chuckles) he was the greatest,” Mahalia said.
Of course, school was not all fun and games, especially trying to balance the demands of Year 12 studies while frequently representing state and national teams.
Mahalia credits the support and encouragement she received from teachers and friends.
The school’s Catholic spirituality served as a sanctuary for Mahalia, allowing her to take a step back from her jam-packed schedule.
School Masses and other liturgical celebrations at school gave Mahalia perspective and helped her understand the importance of healthy life balance in how she could juggle the different aspects of her life.
This base of values has helped transform Mahalia into an individual of high moral fibre.
Her love of netball was nurtured from a young age.
Mahalia honed her skills at Pinecones Netball Club, Lawnton.
Just as at St John Fisher, “Malz”, as her friends would call her was not alone on her journey.
On the odd occasion the Pinecones would field almost an entire team of Cassidys, with mother Kathy proud as punch to slip a jersey on and play with her four daughters.
Despite the family sentiment it soon became obvious that Mahalia had a future that would stretch beyond the Pinecones courts.
She was selected in the under-17 national side and credits this experience as the point where she decided to give netball her full attention.
“Under-17s was my first trip away; it was just an awesome trip, being able to travel with the team,” she said.
“I thought to myself, ‘Yep, this is what I want to do, I want to be involved in the 19s and 21s’.”
Perhaps it was her strong sense of family but, when talking about her on-court success Mahalia referred to these accomplishments using “we” rather than “I”.
She is a team player and attributes much of her success to the chemistry she has had with her team-mates over the years, pinpointing Dom Scott and Bianca Cattelini as her partners in crime.
The three girls progressed through the representative ranks from 15 years of age.
Coupling Cassidy’s strong character and exceptional talent it was seemingly only a matter of time until she took the next step in her young career.
Her break came when she was called up to play as an injury replacement to represent the Queensland Firebirds in their pre-season campaign.
She was to replace the Firebirds injured captain Laura Geitz, widely lauded as one of the most gifted players in Australian Diamond’s history.
“I got a call from my coach telling me I was replacing the best player in the country, so there was definitely a lot of pressure and nerves,” Mahalia said, laughing.
Just as she had with every challenge before she launched into it head-on.
Mahalia impressed during her invaluable court-time, but cites her time off the court and around the top players as a rare insight into the inner sanctum of a professional sporting organisation.
It is unlikely, barring injury, Mahalia will feature in the Firebirds 2015 campaign, but the exposure she gained from the trial games was invaluable.
It’s not bothering her though that she won’t be figuring for the Firebirds this season, because her full attention is concentrated on the upcoming under-21 nationals at Caloundra.
“We’re going to win. Well, that’s our aim,” she said.
“The team is looking superb; we won the 19s last year and have got plenty of players coming back.”
Mahalia and the entire Queensland team will have rowdy hometown support when they take on their interstate rivals at the Sunshine Coast.
The most unwavering fans will be her family, who are apparently “crazy”, bringing bongos, whistles and everything.
Mahalia Cassidy undoubtedly has the talent to go on to a long and celebrated career; there are certainly plenty of people saying just that.
Smiling and laughing with humility, Mahalia is not comfortable talking about her career aspirations.
She lives in the moment, tackling one obstacle at a time, with family and faith firmly behind her.
In a performance industry that demands absolute dedication to reach the highest level, she has seemingly found the balance between moving forward, while also keeping your feet on the ground.
Much to her embarrassment her Nanna and Pa keep every article published about their granddaughter.
The Catholic Leader is an Australian award-winning Catholic newspaper that has been published by the Archdiocese of Brisbane since 1929. Our journalism seeks to provide a full, accurate and balanced Catholic perspective of local, national and international news while upholding the dignity of the human person.
The Catholic Leader acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the First Peoples of this country and especially acknowledge the traditional owners on whose lands we live and work throughout the Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane.