HE HAS not been with the under-18s side much this year but there is no denying Austin Cooper is the South Grafton Rebels' trump card.
The junior Rebels take on Sawtell Panthers in the qualifying final this Sunday, with the winner to take on Macksville Sea Eagles next week for a place in the grand final.
South Grafton is not yet looking that far ahead, with the tough Panthers more than capable of knocking the locals off.
Cooper has only played a handful of games with the side, spending much of the season playing reserve and first grades.
"I played enough to qualify for the finals but I've spent most of the year in seniors," Cooper said.
"I'm not too sure how we'll go. I think we should be sweet.
"Macksville are a very good side so they'll be tough to beat. We have to beat Sawtell first though."
The Rebels have a mixed record when it comes to the Panthers, with both sides recording a win apiece in their two games this season.
South Grafton won 36-14 at Sawtell in the second round of the season, before the Panthers returned the favour with a 32-16 at McKittrick Park in round nine.
They will have to be in top form to overcome the Panthers and book their major semi-final berth, but will also have to be free of injury.
The 120kg winger was at the centre of injury concerns on Sunday during the U18 game against Grafton Ghosts.
He succumbed to an ankle injury and was taken to Grafton Base Hospital, and his return later that afternoon in plaster and on crutches had onlookers and officials suggesting it was a broken ankle.
The tough teenager allayed those fears earlier this week saying it was just a sprain, and he would train through the week with the help of some strapping.
"They said it was just an unusual sprain on the inside of my ankle," Cooper said.
"I've been walking fine and I'd say I'm right for the weekend. I'll just strap it up and see how I go."
His focus today will be on knocking over a PD/H/PE HSC trial exam however, as the Year 12 student enters the most stressful time of his high-schooling life.
You wouldn't know it if you spoke to him however, with the 17-year-old confident.
"It's pretty easy actually," Cooper said.
"I've only got two exams so it should be right. I picked the right subjects - some people I know have five or six to do."
The U18 qualifying final will be played at Coffs Harbour's Geoff King Motors Oval from 11.30am on Sunday.