Sydney Rose of Tralee

Sydney Rose Rebecca summons Anzac spirit for Tralee

Sydney Rose of Tralee for 2019 Rebecca Mazza with parents Catherine and Anthony.

Sydney Rose of Tralee for 2019 Rebecca Mazza with parents Catherine and Anthony.

Newly-crowned Sydney Rose of Tralee Rebecca Mazza was inspired by her heroic Irish great-grandfather to enter the contest.

James Daly emigrated from Kanturk, Co Cork to Fremantle at the age of 19 in 1909 where he pioneered clearing land and farming in Western Australia while raising four children with his wife.

He enlisted with the Australia Imperial Force (AIF) in 1915 and fought bravely at Gallipoli and later at Pozieres where he was wounded and unable to take any further part in the war.

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Although he died before Rebecca was born, the 24-year-old said the Irishman’s courage and strength continue to influence her family to this day.

“Without him coming to Australia and without him surviving Gallipoli and the Western Front, we wouldn’t be here. There’s this idea of where we came from and all the things that happened to make us as individuals. I often think, imagine if James got killed at Gallipoli, I wouldn’t be here,” she says wistfully.

Rebecca Mazza’s Cork-born great grandfather James Daly.

Rebecca Mazza’s Cork-born great grandfather James Daly.

“Knowing that inspires me to do as much as I can with my life because it’s so meaningful. You don’t know the impact you are going to have on future lives and that really resonates with me.”

James is something of a talisman for Rebecca and the Mazza family.

“Anytime something difficult is going on my Dad says ‘You’ve got the blood of Anzac flowing through you, so you can do anything’,” Rebecca said.

It’s a strength the family called on after Rebecca’s younger brother Tom, 21, was diagnosed with a devastating brain tumour two years ago.

Rebecca, who was raised in Perth but moved to Sydney last year, says her selection as Sydney Rose came as a welcome boost for her parents Catherine and Anthony Mazza and siblings Madeline and Thomas.

“My family are absolutely thrilled. I don’t think I’ve seen my parents on such a high for such a long time.

“They’ve been through the mill after my brother was diagnosed with a brain tumour. He had to have emergency surgery and came out of that not being able to speak and it was just horrific.”

Tom underwent further operations and thankfully with help from speech and rehab teams, he is now fully recovered and studying nursing.

Rebecca currently works as a mobile speech pathologist helping families to develop strategies to communicate with their son or daughter who has difficulty speaking due to conditions like autism or cerebral palsy.

She was studying speech therapy at university when Tom got sick and said it spurned her on to complete her degree so she could help her brother and others like him who face speech issues due to medical conditions.The 24-year-old spent several months working in a school in Waterford in 2013 and can’t wait to get back to Ireland this summer.

“I need someone to make me laugh; I just love the Irish banter.

“Irish people are so good at communicating with each-other and telling stories. I remember coming back from Ireland and the banter wasn’t there. Australian guys lack the same level of wit as the Irish and I do miss that.

“I have a very Irish sense of humour. I just absolutely love Irish people. I can’t wait to meet all the Roses from around the world. It will be fascinating.”

But Mazza is keeping her cards close to her chest about what she will perform on stage for RTÉ’s television cameras.

“I play guitar and piano so I have a few options up my sleeve,” she joked.

Former Sydney Rose harassed in Kilkenny pubs

Brianna Parkins, the 2016 Sydney Rose Of Tralee, says she had to fight off drunken pests on a night out in Kilkenny.

Brianna Parkins, the 2016 Sydney Rose Of Tralee, says she had to fight off drunken pests on a night out in Kilkenny.

The 2016 Sydney Rose of Tralee, Brianna Parkins, says she had to fight off a man who put her in a headlock at a bar in Kilkenny last week.

The 28-year-old, who now lives in Dublin, claimed the man went on to try to kiss her against her will, forcing her to push him away from her and her friend.

Speaking on The Ryan Tubridy Show on RTE Radio One, the Sydneysider said "in a perfect world", the incident would have been seen at the time as an assault.

"The plan was to head down to Kilkenny, great to drive through the town, the craic was moderate to high, we were all excited, tanning each other's backs in the Airbnb before heading out," she told Tubridy.

"We get to the first bar and within 10 minutes - I hadn't even ordered a drink yet - I get put in this headlock by this massive sort of rugby-built dude.

"He grabbed me in a headlock in one arm and my friend around with the other arm and just goes in for the shift. It was like being cuddled by an Alsatian, slobbering all over you.

"This was maybe 9.30 or 10pm - not too late for being that sloppy."

She said that this wasn't the first time something like this had happened to her on a night out in Ireland, but what shocked her further was that no one stepped in to help when they saw her forcibly release herself from his grip.

Brianna Parkins on stage with Daithi O’Sé at the Rose Of Tralee.

Brianna Parkins on stage with Daithi O’Sé at the Rose Of Tralee.

"In a perfect world, it would be assault but I'm 28, I've been going out for years, it's kind of sad that I am almost desensitised to that - you expect that now on a night out," she said. "But what I didn't expect was, I reacted like a normal person, grabbed him by the back of the head, reefed him off me and my friend, gave a few solid good shoves for good measure and he kept coming back at us.

"I just had to keep responding more and more aggressively and everyone in the bar turned to look at me as if I am the person causing the problem, but this bloke had a good 30kg on me - physically, we weren't evenly matched.

"No one helped, his mates didn't help, they thought it was funny and the bouncer looked at us like they were going to almost consider kicking me out."

It was like being cuddled by an Alsatian, slobbering all over you.

She moved on with her group of friends to another bar after they finished their drinks, and while they were approached by men, nothing happened when they refused their company. However, she added that there was a further incident in another bar later in the night when a man "screamed into her face" when she turned down his advances.

"We don't even stay half an hour, a big group of guys are dancing around us, dancing on us quite aggressively," she said.

"They're trying to cuddle us and put their arms around us and you're like 'no thanks' - as a girl you try give the polite 'no', because you're told not to be bitter or aggressive.

"He got up into my face and screamed, 'You're on a night out, love' and I'm like, 'I know, I'm dancing with my friends and having a good time and I don't want to be bothered by you guys'.

She said the sort of behaviour she witnessed would not be seen in outback pubs in Australia.

"I've been in rough, outback pubs in Australia but I've never had that level of carry-on happen."

She said it made her consider that these kinds of incidents should be reported to gardai.

Senator's daughter is Sydney's Rose of Tralee

2018 Sydney Rose of Tralee Caitlin Macinante

2018 Sydney Rose of Tralee Caitlin Macinante

If newly-selected Sydney Rose Of Tralee Caitlin Macinante needs any tips on what the role involves, she need look no further than her own mum.

Ms Macinante was chosen from 16 hopefuls at last night's Sydney Rose Of Tralee selection ball in front of a full house at the Hyatt Regency Darling Harbour.

The 26-year-old business development manager, who lives in Newcastle, is a daughter of federal Labor Senator for NSW Deborah O'Neill, who represented Sydney at the Rose Of Tralee back in 1980.

The family's Irish heritage comes via Caitlin's maternal grandmother, who hails from Co Kilkenny and her maternal grandfather, who comes from Cork.

Ms Macinante is currently studying for a Bachelor of Education degree via correspondence and is passionate about inclusive schooling and equity among learners. Caitlin also sings and plays both guitar and piano.  

Senator Deborah O'Neill with Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese.

Senator Deborah O'Neill with Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese.