Maidens Looking to Deliver Knock-Out Blow with World Class Athlete Rookies
As the 2014/15 LFL season approaches, the excitement surrounding the Victoria Maidens’ bevy of talented rookies increases. Ash Kelly, Rain Mako and Bizz Ardossi are three first-year players who have joined Victoria’s ranks, looking to add their own individual firepower to the Maidens’ roster and make an impact in October.
Dubbed a sporting prodigy since early childhood, Ash ‘AK47’ Kelly has taken to LFL with an ease and capability encompassed by very few. Recruited to the Melbourne Tigers Women’s Basketball team at the age of 10, Kelly ran the backcourt for nine straight years, stopping only to knock down pull up jumpers from beyond the arc.
During that same timespan Kelly garnered numerous awards including, but not limited to, U20 national championship gold whilst representing Victoria, secondary school state tournament MVP and All-Australian merit team.
Her talent on the court and unassuming humility off it was never going to be confined to Australia, catching the watchful eyes of US scouts in her late teens. Initially recruited to Gulf Coast Community College, Kelly led her side to a National Junior College title, earning herself First Team All-Panhandle Conference honours along the way. She followed her successful two-year stint in Panama City with another two years at the University of Southern Mississippi; the university describing her as an ‘impact player, hard worker’ and as having ‘good vision’.
Now back in Australia, Kelly believes her four years in the USA and vast experience on the hardwood will hold her in good stead when donning the purple pirate in October.
“Basketball actually translates a lot out here (on the football field) in terms of reading the play and knowing how players move,” she says. “Simple things like catching, running around and our footwork translates very similarly from basketball so it has helped me a lot.”
The most experienced of the three profiled rookies, Rain Mako possesses an athletic resume capable of striking fear into the fearless. Born in New Zealand, Mako has spent her life pushing the physical boundaries of the human body as a rugby player, professional boxer and personal trainer.
Making her name as a boxer, Mako spent two years in the ring from 2000-‘01 where she partook in six professional fights, storming home for victory in four of them. She was cited as having “provided female boxing with pizzazz and glamour with her Amazonian physique and film star looks – a polite gentle individual outside the ring, but a tiger within it”.
Arguably her greatest fight, in November of 2000 Mako KO’d world champion Holly Ferneley in the first round of their bout, prompting Anthony ‘The Man’ Mundine to describe her as “having the boxing power of a man”. At her peak Mako sent Leila Ali, the daughter of Muhammad, video footage of her fights in an attempt to coax her into the ring, only to be knocked back after Muhammad had viewed the footage himself.
Amongst the experience, knowledge and leadership she brings to the Maidens outfit, arguably Mako’s most impressive asset is her deep seeded interest in the growth and development of female sport. Whilst at the peak of her boxing powers she appeared on television news programs ‘A Current Affair’, ‘Today, Tonight’ and ’60 Minutes’ in support of women’s boxing and to gain a greater appreciation for female athletes world-wide.
LFL and the Victoria Maidens headline the next chapter in Mako’s awe-inspiring story. She believes her experiences as a rugby player and professional boxer instil her with the confidence needed to throw her body on the line each time she takes the football field.
“When it comes down to it, I know I’ve got the aggression and I don’t stand down,” she says.
“I’m naturally strong and I’ve noticed the last three years that I’ve been playing WNBL here in Australia I was sort of being penalised for my strength, something that didn’t happen to me in America. I just wasn’t happy and I wanted to try something different,” – WNBA draftee, State of Georgia Women’s basketball player of the year and current Victoria Maiden Bizz Ardossi.
Standing 6’2” and built like the proverbial, Ardossi’s strength has always been one of her finest assets and set her apart from her opponents. From setting shot put records as an eight-year-old to scoring over 1000 points as a power forward in her four years at Georgia Tech University, strength has been the key weapon in Ardossi’s arsenal. So much so, in 2010 Ardossi was drafted to the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream as the 28th overall pick; a feat achieved by very few Australian athletes.
Additional team-based and individual achievements awarded Ardossi throughout her career include 2005 Pacific School Game gold medal representing Victoria, 2005 Pacific School Games All-Tournament team, 2005-06 U20 Australian National Junior silver medal representing Victoria, 2010 Second-Team All-ACC and State of Georgia Women’s basketball player of the year, 2010 FIU Sun and Fun MVP and 2010 LIU Turkey Classic All-Tournament team.
Combining strength with her first-rate athleticism and mental application, LFL comes as the perfect fit for Ardossi who feels as though the years she spent playing against bigger bodied athletes puts her in a good position to compete on the football field.
“One of my hits here, over there doesn’t really translate, but here you knock three people out. It seems like a good fit, it seems natural and I’ve just sort of stepped in and felt really good about it,” she says. “Playing against that (bigger bodied athletes) every year for four years gets you mentally prepared for stuff like this.”