KATHERINE “born and bred” Tom McLellan has come a long way since kicking the footy around in the backyard with his mates.
Tom was recruited to school of excellence Kirwan State High School in Townsville, where he trains with the North Queensland Cowboys, and he's set to make his mark next year in the Toyota Cup.
Growing up with the support of his parents Iana and Glenn, his three sisters Bec, Rachael and Biddy and brother Ian, he found it hard to adjust when he first moved to Queensland in 2010.
He quickly found his stride and made the Queensland U18s team that competed in the ARL Schoolboy Cup.
He was also selected in the Australian Institute of Sport team and toured France and England playing rubgy league – something all of his family are proud of.
“France and England were a highlight,” Tom said.
“I enjoyed all the tourist stuff we did, and all the famous and historical places we visited.
“Although personally I didn’t play my best, we went well over there – we won four games out of five.”
Tom is busy with school every day, trains five times a week for the Cowboys, school team and representative team Townsville Stingers, and plays games weekly, he also said he has time for a social life.
"Through the season we are flat out training but it’s made me a lot of very close mates that I’ll have for a lifetime.
“I now have two families – one in Katherine, and one here in Townsville.”
Tom said that this amazing opportunity came about in 2009 when he was playing at a competition in Cairns.
“I was approached by my player manager, and he set me up with the school [Kirwan] on his knowledge of their football history and his friendship with the coaches.”
Tom is in the school’s homestay program – something he is used to after being billeted countless times through his primary and high school sporting competitions.
Tom is contracted until 2014 so after he graduates high school at the end of the year, he will be playing in the U20s Toyota Cup.
Tom hopes that he will make it to the NRL, make his family and friends proud of his achievements and to become a household name, but for now he is grateful his dreams are slowly coming true.
“I wouldn’t have made it to where I am today without the support of my mum, dad and my family,” Tom said.
“Also the homestays and a lot of support from the coaching staff at Kirwan and our diehard fan the principal.”