Tyro on the move
CORMAC Grant may well be the youngest player in the North Coast Football Premier League.
In his first season of senior football, the 16-year-old from Grafton has enjoyed a relatively seamless transition from junior representative level to playing first grade for Westlawn, securing the left fullback position in the Tigers' backline.
Cormac described his call-up to the first team as a bit of a shock.
"I was very surprised," he said. "I was only expecting to be playing reserves until I finished school, and then maybe make the step up. I feel privileged to be able to play in the Premier League with Westlawn."
Despite handling the pressure well, and receiving the plaudits of Westlawn coach Robert Usher early in the season, Cormac has had to adapt to a faster, more intense footballing experience in NCF's top division.
"Without a doubt, it was a big shock to come to first grade," Cormac admitted. "I felt very vulnerable playing against men and it has definitely toughened me up.
"To be honest, I'm always quite nervous before a match, but I'm excited to play and try to focus on turning the nerves into a positive energy.
"There is definitely quality in the league with lots of standout players and it certainly is not an easy ride. But I feel I am playing much better football because of this and learning so much."
Cormac is a solid defender, with good pace and a knack for instigating flowing moves down Westlawn's left flank.
With at least another two years of first grade football to enjoy after 2014, the South Grafton High School student holds future ambitions of playing overseas.
"I want to play for Westlawn for another few seasons, but I want to travel after school,'' he said.
"Football is played everywhere, so I think it would be fun to play and learn with people from other cultures and countries.
"I owe a lot to Rob (Usher) who gave me the opportunity to prove myself. He was my development coach for a few years and helped me with my touch and ball skills. Now I'm learning the tactical side of the game - things like positioning and movement off the ball."
As much of a football fan as he is a player, Cormac's local footballing path is being encouraged by the growth of Australian football, with the FFA Cup match a recent example.
However, he believes more can be done on a youth level to improve the game Down Under.
"It is great that the A-League is bringing in high quality players like Heskey and Del Piero to boost the quality and popularity of the league.
"But I was disappointed the state youth league didn't find enough teams to form a 15-years boys' competition this year."
Perhaps less encouraging are Westlawn's results this season, but Cormac believes they don't tell the full story.
"I'm very happy to be playing this season, regardless of our position on the ladder," he said.
"Of course I'm a bit disappointed, but overall I still think we played some good football."
The only person possibly more enthusiastic than Cormac about his growth as a footballer is his father, Joe Grant. An avid supporter of Westlawn, both from the sidelines and in an assistant coaching role, Joe is predictably delighted with his son's efforts .
"I am very proud Cormac is able to play first grade and be competitive at this level," he said.
"It's something he's been working towards since starting the junior development program and state youth league."
And Joe has just a few simple words for his son: "Keep working hard but always enjoy yourself."
It's difficult to imagine Cormac doing anything different.