Tough; skilled; determined: These are just some of the terms used to describe Teig Wilton.
Wilton, a Narooma Devils junior, is coming off the best year of his young career, with a litany of honours and awards to his name.
The accolades began in May, as Wilton helped lead the Sharks SG Ball side to a grand final, a game in which he would score a try.
SG Ball is the New South Wales Rugby League’s premier under 18s competition.
The competition includes under 18s sides from all NSW-based NRL clubs, as well as teams from other major areas of the state.
A Cronulla Sharks’ spokesperson said Teig was “one of the leaders of the team”.
“Teig had a huge impact, and I don’t think we would have got there (the grand final) without him.”
Wilton himself said “the whole season was a really good experience”.
“Grand Final day wasn’t our day, and a couple of things didn’t go our way,” he said.
“It was still a really successful, enjoyable year with a good bunch of boys.”
His performance over the season caught the eyes of representative selectors, as he was picked just two days after the grand final loss to run out for the NSW U18s Blues.
Wilton described this selection as an “honour”, and the experience allowed him some time with established NRL stars, as the jersey presentation ceremony was attended by David Klemmer, Aaron Woods and Jake Trbojevic.
He would use his performance in the Origin arena as a springboard for the rest of the year, as he continued to train with the Sharks’ U20s side.
This training has helped Wilton realise what is necessary at higher levels of the game.
“There’s definitely a step up between SG Ball and U20s,” Wilton said.
“They’re a lot more professional, and a lot bigger and more talented.”
If anyone is equipped to make the leap, however, it is Wilton.
“Wilton is obviously a very talented and skillful player,” the Sharks’ spokesperson said.
“He plays above his weight, and has the determination to succeed at higher levels.”
And Wilton hopes his determination will help him break into the U20s side next season.
“I want to play to the best of my ability, and get better every single training session,” Wilton said.
The accolades have not stopped with the U20s side, however, as Wilton was recently selected to tour New Zealand with the Australian Schoolboys side in September.
“This will be my third time in New Zealand,” Wilton said.
“I’ve been over with the Country U16s side, and the NSW U17s development squad.
“I’m keen to get over there and meet all the boys.”
The Australian Schoolboys side has already been a successful pathway for the Eurobodalla Shire, as Moruya’s Michael Weyman was a member in 2002.
Weyman went on to play 140 games at NRL level, including four Origins and one Test match for Australia.
And although Teig is still only 17 years old, he’s already thinking of a future in the NRL.
“My goals are to make the NRL, and to be the best football player I possibly can,” Wilton said.
Those goals were dealt no harm at the Sharks’ awards night, as he was named their Junior Representative Player of the Year.
Teig said he was “very honoured and proud” to receive the award.
“I had my whole family up from Narooma at the awards night, and it was a very proud moment for us all,” said Wilton.
“I had no idea that I’d be receiving the award, so it was a surprise for sure.”
The Sharks spokesperson rated Teig very highly, saying that he had the qualities necessary to make it in the NRL.
“If Teig keeps working hard at his game, I can see an NRL player there.”
And whilst rugby league success is very important to Teig, he’s also had to deal with a big move away from family.
“At first it was difficult, and I got homesick a lot early on,” said Wilton.
“I have a really supportive family though, and Mum and Dad get up as much as they can.
“I’ve also got a lovely homestay family who have been really caring throughout the process.”
Wilton said his teammates helped make the transition easy.
“There’s a big group of local boys at the Sharks, and they’re slowly turning me into a Shire boy,” Wilton said.
“I’ve got a good bunch of mates showing me the ropes.
“There’s also a good group of country boys, and we have players from QLD and New Zealand.”
Teig is also making plans for after his footy career, as he understands how fragile a professional sporting career can be.
He plans to study “something in the health or medicine field” over the next few years at university.
“The Sharks’ wellbeing officers put a big emphasis on focusing on life outside of football,” Wilton said.
“It’s a high-risk sort of career. You’re only ever one injury or missed opportunity away from losing it all.”