By Paulo Kennedy, Pagemasters
To understand Tess Madgen’s fierce competitive streak, you only need to call into a family Christmas party, where sporting challenges abound.
“The last one ended because one of my uncles took out one of my other uncles in a game of basketball,” Madgen laughed, revealing the guilty pair were former Fitzroy footballers Matthew and Tim Rendell.
With such talented lineage it’s no surprise the Madgen kids have achieved such success, with sport defining their early years in Williamstown.
“I think that’s where my love of sport came from, because in a country town sport is always one of the main focuses and it’s a way of the community coming together,” Madgen said.
“I think I was blessed to grow up in such a beautiful part of the country, in the Barossa Valley, and I really loved my upbringing out there.”
While wine is usually on the menu for visitors to that part of South Australia, for the Madgens it was any game they could think of. Tess’ earliest sporting memories are of going to watch brother Ben and sister Kylie play football and netball “in the freezing cold”.
“We grew up on a fair bit of land so there was always outdoor cricket, especially with my two brothers,” she said.
“My older sister played softball, so sometimes I’d go out and catch for her.”
Footy, cricket, soccer, netball and softball all got a run, but somehow basketball became the official sport of the Madgen family.
“Across the road we had the school, so we used to go down there and use the basketball rings quite a bit. We’d play two-on-one against Ben, but he’d still always beat Jack and I,” she said.
“Then when he got a bit older, Jack and I would play one-on-one. I always used to beat him and then one day he beat me, and ever since then I never went out there and played again.”
That’s about the only time Madgen has backed away from a challenge, winning many admirers with her never-say-die attitude.
After representing South Australia at the national championships, Madgen’s competitiveness was paired with a burning ambition to represent her country at the Olympics.
While the 180cm shooter admitted she skipped homework time to shoot hoops, those sessions took on new meaning.
“You still have fun while you are doing it, but I definitely wasn’t doing it for the fun. I was doing it because I had a goal in mind,” she said.
A place in the Australian junior team followed, as did a bronze medal at the World University Games and an impressive rise to stardom with the Melbourne Boomers, Madgen currently ranking ninth in the WNBL in scoring and third in assists.
Yet while the affable country girl who calls strangers “mate” and “champ” might not seem like a good fit for Melbourne life, the reality is quite the opposite.
“I actually do have a bit of that side of me. I love the food, I’m a little bit of a foodie,” she laughed.
“I love going to find new cafes and I think it’s a great atmosphere.”
But her biggest love is soaking up the teachings of Boomers coach Guy Molloy and working towards that Olympic berth, with Sydney King brother Ben and her other siblings the inspiration.
“Sport-based, I probably look up to Ben the most because he inspired me to play basketball and I just think he’s such a good role model for the community, he does a lot of charity work,” Madgen said.
“Kylie’s a psychologist and works in child protective services, so she has a pretty full-on job and the stuff she does for the community is pretty admirable. She’s a very caring and nurturing person.”
Basketball fans should also get used to the name Jack Madgen, who is making waves for Delta State University in the US.
“Jack’s a little pocket rocket,” Tess laughed.
“Jack inspires me because he’s so fun to be around and the life of the party. They all have their qualities that I admire and draw from.”
And that admiration means the 24-year-old is looking forward to the day she moves back to the country and has a family of her own.
“I want to be a PE teacher, so I think the country lifestyle would suit that,” she said.
“I loved my childhood, so I could definitely see myself wanting to do that for my kids as well.”
The good news for Boomers fans is basketball comes first for now.
“Growing up in a family of four, ideally I’d like to have four kids. But if you’re going to have four kids you’re going to have to start having them soon,” she laughed.
“I’ll keep playing for as long as I can, and as long as I keep loving the game, and then see what happens after that.”4