GERRINGONG’S Josh Mayo has just returned from a school holidays experience he will never forget.
The 16-year-old Kiama High School student spent two weeks in South Africa as a member of the Australian under 17s All Schools hockey team.
Mayo earned selection for the tour after an impressive performance at the national schools championships last year.
The Australian side played three warm up matches, before contesting a three-match test series with South Africa.
After winning all three of their warm up games, they started the test series 4-1 win, before the locals squared things up in game two 3-2.
Fortunately they came back to win the third game 3-1 and clinch the series.
Mayo said playing in the series was incredible and like nothing he had ever experienced before.
“I’ve definitely gained some confidence and learned some things I can bring back home when I play in local rep teams and for my club side Albion Park,” he said.
It was Mayo’s first time playing hockey overseas and he said the quality of the opposition was top-class.
“Australia is number one in senior rankings, so we always have quality players across the board,” he said.
“But South Africa have a very strong junior base, so we were always expecting a tough competition and they really did give it to us,” he added.
But the trip was not all about hockey, with the team getting to some sightseeing as well.
“We went on safari, about an hour outside of Durban and we also went into a Zulu village,” he said.
“It was pretty cool to experience the traditional cultures and to see how they live.
“It’s very different, so it was a bit of an eye-opener.”
While he enjoyed the travelling part of the trip, there is no doubt the hockey was the best part.
“Winning the series was definitely the highlight, but also making lots of new friends,” he said.
“I felt I played fairly well and matched all the expectations I placed upon myself,” he added.
It was the first time Mayo had represented Australia, but he is hoping more opportunities will follow.
“Singing the national anthem for your country, there’s nothing like it,” he said.
“It was pretty incredible hearing their cheers and their home crowd singing their national anthem.
“It was pretty crazy, but a great experience though.”
Mayo has already been selected in the NSW under 18s team for next year and said the experience in South Africa has motivated him to make more representative squads.
In the future he is hoping to make the step up to playing for the Australian under 21s and eventually the men’s national team.