Growing up in country Victoria, the road to elite netball can be a long one.
2,000km a week long.
That’s how far Victorian Fury captain, Lara Dunkley’s parents would drive her each week to pursue her netball ambitions.
Hailing from Yarram, a country town 220km south-east of Melbourne, Dunkley’s journey to the Fury was a challenging one.
“I literally slept, studied and ate in the car, and that was on repeat every second day of the week,” Dunkley said.
“My parents were probably my biggest support network, driving me to and from Melbourne. Looking back now I don’t even know how they did it.”
Introduced to netball by her Aunty, Dunkley jokes that she played footy with her brothers before she took the netball court.
“I didn’t even know what netball was until I was 13 when I first started playing.
“My Aunty took me to my first netball session, and from there I grew up playing in the country footy netball league for a few years for Yarram and Sale.
Making her first A-Grade team just three years later at the age of 16, Dunkley then made the Eastern Zone Academy.
Her pathway to the Fury was not without setbacks, missing selection for the state 17/U team as a goaler.
The turning point in her career: making the move from goals to midcourt after joining the Ariels in the Victorian Netball League.
“I started in the Victorian Netball League with the Peninsula Waves. Someone got injured and I was invited to come to training.
“From there I moved to the Ariels and that’s when I changed positions to the midcourt.”
Making her first state team at 19/U, followed by the 21/U team, Dunkley then progressed to the Australian Netball League for the Fury and the Victorian Flames.
Sport runs in the Dunkley family. Lara’s father was an AFL player for the Sydney Swans, whilst her brother Josh is a premiership player for the Western Bulldogs. Her youngest brother is also hoping to be drafted.
“I think being in that competitive environment with your family, they push you to your limit and it’s actually been for the better because we’re all in this same kind of situation now.”
Now juggling both the Fury captaincy and her role as a Melbourne Vixens training partner, Dunkley loves the teams she is a part of.
“I love the environments that I’m in and being a training partner I feel like I can bring down some knowledge to the Fury girls, and I’ve loved it so far.”
“I’m just very lucky and taking it step-by-step and learning as much as I can.”
What drives her to make it in the sporting world?
“If you want something so hard, be prepared to make the sacrifices because you’ll be able to achieve it if you do.”
Watch Lara and her Fury teammates live next weekend as they take on the reigning premiers, the Western Sting.