McAULEY Catholic College student Sam Young has been selected as part of the Australian All-Schools Under 16 national team after a gruelling national championships campaign in Perth.
Young has been mastering hockey for more than a decade now and in recent years has played in many representative carnivals at State and National levels.
"It is pretty great, it was always a dream but I never thought it would be a reality," Young said. "It was sort of just out there, something to aim for but I cannot believe I am actually going for it.
"The first two hours my parents were like 'I can't believe it, I just can't believe it', and even now Mum always goes back over to read the messages of congratulations, she is just so proud."
Young's selection in the Australian All-Schools side follows his time in the New South Wales Under-16 side that finished second at the All-Schools National Championships in Perth despite winning all their group matches.
"It was really good playing in Perth," Young said. "A couple of teams like ACT are only over there for the fun of it, but playing against teams like Queensland or Victoria it is really good competition.
"We lost in the final 3-1 to Queensland. The weather for the final really didn't help us. We had warmed up and then it rained us out for 15 minutes, so we had to warm up again but it was sort of too late because we had gone cold. We weren't particularly ready for it."
Young played in his first men's hockey game at 14 and since that day has not looked back.
"Playing up in the men's is a lot more of a physical competition, you have to be a lot stronger on the ball," he said.
"You learn a lot more playing against harder teams than easy teams. Especially playing in opens, it helped me a lot coming back to play against the guys my own age.
"There are all different people who are coaching me now, like Rick Sampson and Matt Lobsey who have been giving me really great guidance in the last couple of years, which has really helped me to progress to this level of competition."
Young plays in the Clocktower Hotel Royals Under-16 and A Grade sides in the weekend competition and his Under-16s coach Nick Weller said he could not be prouder of the young player.
"I have known Sam since he was 10 years old when he first started training up with the men's side even though he was not allowed to play with us," Weller said.
"He has always had natural talent, you could tell that from the start, but he has just committed over the last few years and really grown as a player."
Not alone in achievements
Young was not the only Clarence Valley representative at the All-School National Championships last week.
Grafton High Blue first grader Sarah Donnolley played in the New South Wales Under-16 Girls' side who finished third overall after in thier tournament.
Lawrence Public School student Ashleigh Ensbey competed for NSW in the School Sport Australia Under-12 Girls' Hockey Championships in Perth.
She scored in a 3-0 win in the opening game against ACT. NSW followed up with wins over Tasmania and South Australia, a 1-all draw with WA and a 2-0 win over Victoria before losing the final 1-0 to Queensland.