STEPPING on to a Sydney stage in front of a huge crowd can spell disaster for even the most confident of nine-year-olds.
But not River Robinson, a Yamba Public School student who has cemented his place as one of the state's best spellers after making it through the final rounds of the Premier's Spelling Bee.
Over a gruelling three hours, River beat 39 talented young students from primary schools across New South Wales as he sounded out his way to the junior final's top four.
"When I got my first word, because it was a practice word I was pretty okay," he said. "My practice word was soccer. It was based on a personal profile which they read out at the spelling bee, and I wrote about soccer."
From there, however, the words increased in difficulty.
After a number of elimination rounds came the word elegy, which is defined as a poem of serious reflection, typically a lament for the dead.
Mother Buffy Robinson said both River and the third-placed student were eliminated on that word, meaning the Yamba youngster was only two words away from winning.
River could spell both of those words without a worry, but was still very happy with his result.
"It's amazing, I felt really proud of myself because we practised every afternoon and morning," he said.
On his return to school, River's classmates were ecstatic with the result, too.
"They all said congratulations to me," he said happily.