Classy Koenen clan creating sporting history

Sports are a lot of things to a lot of people. Some play sports for excitement, many for comraderies and others for a career. Sports inspire us, motivate us, challenge us. For the Koenen family, sports are a way of life.

Siblings Breanna (22), Cara (20), Alyssa (19) and Dirk (17), grew up on Magnetic Island in north Queensland. The tropical climate was conducive to an outdoors-lifestyle and the four Koenen children began their sporting careers in earnest.

“Mum and Dad put us in as many activities as they could; gymnastics, surf lifesaving, swimming, athletics, netball, aussie rules – you name it, we did it,” Cara said.

“The four us of played in the same footy team, the Magnetic Island Magpies. There were boys and girls of various ages all running around together which was fun.”

The netballer admitted she had an innate competitiveness about her.

“I remember the first time I made a North Queensland representative team. At the time, I was the only one in the family who hadn’t made a rep. side so the pressure was on to get selected and I told myself I had to make it,” she laughed.

“Growing up, I was pretty perseverant and determined to do the best I could. I always wanted to beat the other three in anything we played.

“We even took board games seriously and it usually ended in a fight. We still have that competitive nature.”

Per the eldest sibling, Breanna, their childhoods played out with your typical family rivalries.

“We were fairly driven to outdo one another. We were pretty determined to succeed in all sports. It helps having talented siblings to compete against and push you,” Breanna said.

Breanna focussed firmly on footy and it paid dividends, with AFL Club, Brisbane Lions snapping her up. The long commutes from Townsville to Cairns to develop her game as a youngster were well and truly worth it, as she now finds herself on the national stage in the inaugural AFL women’s competition.

“I love aussies rules and there’s a pathway in my sport now with the new league and it’s very exciting. I never thought I would be playing sport professionally so it’s awesome,” she said.

Her infectious enthusiasm isn’t lost on fellow footballer, Dirk. The centre half-back has also overcome the tyranny of distance to pursue a professional career at the Gold Coast Suns. The Academy member admits there have been a lot of sacrifices to get where he is today.

“Leaving friends and family to live with a host family was difficult. My family’s belief in me is overwhelming though,” Dirk said.

“I have to train extremely hard and be really professional if I want to take the next step and play in the AFL.”

Another Koenen not afraid of hard work is Alyssa. The surf lifesaver made her first junior Australian team while still in high school, before graduating to the open team in 2015 for the International Surf Rescue Challenge and again in 2016 for the World Championships in the Netherlands. But it was her humble beginnings at the Arcadia Surf Lifesaving Club where the prodigious talent honed her skills as a five-year-old.

“I tried aussie rules and netball but was better in the surf so went down that path, plus my swimming Coach didn’t like me playing netball,” joked Alyssa.

“Health and fitness have always been a big part of my life. Even if I’m not training for an event, I’ll still exercise up to three times a day.

“Over the Christmas holidays when the four of us were at home we did running sessions together on top of our set programs. It’s great to mix up training and get out and about together.

“We have always been a supportive family and I know I’m driven to succeed because the others have in their chosen sports.”

When all is said and done, one underlying message from the four athletes prevails, that none of this would have been possible without the support of parents, Teri and Robert who were instrumental in their children’s success.

“Before any of us had our driver’s licences, they’d have to catch the ferry with us, take us to our respective training sessions; Bre and Dirk to aussie rules, Alyssa to the pool, me to netball and then do the rounds picking us up before getting home at 10:30pm,” Cara said.

“They went above and beyond with financial support too. All our underage trips were to Mackay, Sunshine Coast or Brisbane for example. It wouldn’t have been cheap but they always put us first and made sure we could chase our dreams.”