1. How and why did you start playing bocce?
When I was 11, my family travelled for a holiday to my grandparents’ country of birth, Slovenia. My aunty in Slovenia owns a restaurant with a bocce court outside, which is where I played the game for the first time. It was there that I found out that I enjoyed it.
When I got back to Australia, my granddad asked me to join him in a weekly competition in Sydney at Triglav Slovenian Club, and from there I continued playing.
2. Which bocce event (singles/doubles/triples/throwing etc) is your favourite to play, and why?
My favourite event is the progressive throw and doubles rapid throw.
I have always been sporty. Even now, I enjoy athletics and spend a lot of time training at my local athletics track.
These two events allow me to combine my love for the technical side of bocce and my love of running. I feel they always challenge me to push myself to my physical and mental limits.
3. How many medals have you won at the Nationals?
I have won five national titles, and have come second 11 times, so I probably have to work on my conversion rate at winning finals. It always seems to be a Victorian beating me, so I’d like that to change!
4. Which strengths do you believe you have that make you a champion bocce player?
I think that I am very determined to win, and this drives me to constantly try to improve as a bocce player.
I have had training sessions in the past where I just can’t get it right, and I will spend two hours throwing 200 balls at target after target until I feel I can take something positive away from the session.
I believe that I have also developed good control of my body when throwing, so that I can quickly realise any mistakes I have made and make minute adjustments required to rectify them.
This has been particularly useful in progressive throw, where the fast pace of the game doesn’t allow you to stop and think about how to fix any mistakes and keep hitting targets.
5. Why are you so passionate about playing bocce?
I love playing bocce because it has given me a second family. I have been so lucky to have travelled not only just across the country, but across the world, and have met some of my best friends from playing this game. I can’t imagine what my life would be like right now if I didn’t play bocce.
But it’s not just the friendships outside of bocce that make me love the game, but also the rivalries with these friends within the game. If I lose one more doubles final to Victoria at Nationals (it’s been two in a row so far), I’ll probably cry.
But in the end, that night when it happens (which I’m sure it will), I’ll probably go down to the hotel bar with them, have a drink and laugh about how I screwed up yet another chance to win.
6. What are your major highlights and achievements in bocce in the past?
I am grateful that I have been able to travel overseas and win two World Championships bronze medals at a senior level, and one at a junior level.
In the process, I have also managed to break the Australian record in progressive throw, precision throw and doubles rapid throw with Santo Pascuzzi.
I was also lucky enough to play for part of three seasons for Skala Sezana in the Slovenian Super League.
But a moment I could never forgot would still be on the court in Morocco in 2017, when I realised, with two balls remaining in the match, that I was about to win a bronze medal, and had to hold back tears.
Being 21 at the time, and it being my first time playing an individual event at a senior World Championships, I did not expect that result, and I was overwhelmed by the feeling that all the training I put in had led to that moment.
7. What do you believe is the greatest challenge most bocce players are facing today?
I have to stay with the times and say it would be coronavirus. All around the world, competitions have been delayed and thrown into disarray, including here in Australia.
We have had our last two national championships cancelled and while, for me, this just makes me burn with desire to return to play, for others it may defuse that flame.
I think that the first few months after we return will be critical. I encourage all bocce players to get involved, return to their local clubs, and participate whenever they can.
8. Is there a coach or bocce player that you looked up to when you first started playing as a role model, and why?
My first ever coach was Lojze Magajna, and he played a large part in my development. He not only taught me the basics of the game, but also introduced me to the spectacle of international competition by showing me videos and telling me stories of the great European players.
As I started to play more and experience the game here in Australia, I began to look up to players like Dino Mikolic and Santo Pascuzzi, and with both I now enjoy a friendly rivalry.
I still remember being in the crowd in 2011 when Santo Pascuzzi broke the Australian progressive throw record, and I dreamed that one day I could beat it myself. Little did I know, that dream would come true.
9. How do you prepare to compete in the Nationals?
I usually have a heavy workload at nationals, so conditioning is a large part of my preparation.
For progressive throw, this involves a combination of sprint training, running, and weights, which I am working on all year round.
For the technical side of my game, I like to train in game situations, to try to simulate the pressure and intensity of a match. I do this by setting targets for myself in training matches, such as a certain score to reach in progressive throw and pushing myself to meet them.
I believe that without putting the time in at training playing at my best, I am much less likely to surpass my best when it matters in competition.
10. What one word describes you?