Hastings Deering Colts Player of the Year Tom McGrath has gone from a young boy ripping and tearing in a small town in the Northern Territory to making his Intrust Super Cup debut in 2019.
McGrath, who has been with Northern Pride since under 16 and worked his way up through the grades, said he was extremely happy with his year and was stoked to win the gong.
"It's pretty unreal. A fair bit of a shock, but I'm very grateful for it. Over the moon," the second rower and lock said.
"Growing up in a small town in the Northern Territory, you know everyone. You'd go down to the local oval and play footy with all of your mates. That's how I grew up and how footy became part of my life.
"I started playing rugby league in under 6s in the Northern Territory. Been playing ever since. I love it."
The Ivanhoes Rugby League Club junior made his Intrust Super Cup debut for Pride in 2019 and is looking to get more call ups next year.
"I just want to play as much Intrust Super Cup games as I can. Try that - if I get anything else, I'll be over the moon," McGrath said.
The 19-year-old said the Hastings Deering Colts competition was tough this year and helped prepare him for Cup.
The hardworking player said he always aimed "to put in 70 to 80 minutes - do as much as I can for the team and make sure I do my job right".
"It was a tough competition. We started off well, but didn't get to the spot we would've liked to have. That's footy though I guess," McGrath said.
His Hastings Deering Colts coach Dave Scott said his player was an excellent choice for the award.
“He fully deserves it ... it’s good to get recognition for a player who does the little things right on the field," Scott said.
What had especially impressed him was the way McGrath took it upon himself to work on his own game to be the best player he could be.
“He came into the Under 20s last year as an 18-year-old, a young boy, he performed adequately ... but he was lacking physically compared to the older boys," Scott said.
“In the off season and throughout the year, it’s an area he’s really refocused himself; developing his physical prowess on the field. His athleticism, he’s a lot more dynamic than he was previously.
“His mindset and his ability to identify where he needed to improve has probably got him to win the Under 20s player of the year because his aggression and toughness has always been there, but complementing that now is his physical side which he has developed.
"And he’s well respected on the field; he’s a leader within the team, not necessarily a talker, but with his actions on the field, he is outstanding."
Scott said he hoped he would be able to call on McGrath to help push the side into the finals next year, but was also looking forward to him pressing for more Cup caps.
“Hopefully we can make the eight next year, we had a good squad at the beginning of the year, we didn’t have much depth, we had a lot of younger boys come in and it’s a step up from the local competition when they come into the 20s, a massive step up, the speed of the game and the competitiveness week-in, week-out.
“Tommy was exposed to that last year and he really went away and worked on what he thought he needed to do to be competitive and compete at the next level; and ... we have younger group, and hopefully we have that development within the group both individually and as a team so we can maintain our performance for the whole season, not just the beginning."
McGrath said, being a north Queenslander, he ultimately hoped to play for the North Queensland Cowboys.
"That'd be ideal, but I'd obviously look at any club that wanted me," McGrath said.
McGrath said he was sticking with Pride for 2020 and looking to continue to move up the ranks.
"Bring it on," McGrath said.