DUBBO soccer star Jacob Tratt is a step closer to the big time this week after the announcement on Wednesday he would be touring Italy with the Sydney FC Youth squad on their pre-season tour.
Tratt, who spent every season from under-13s through to the under 18s last year playing with the Western club under the Panthers and later Mariners banner, has been playing with Sutherland FC in the NSW Premier League so far in 2013.
He was part of the club's under-20s squad but has since been elevated into first grade and after trialling with A-League glamour club Sydney FC, club legend and former Socceroos star Steve Corica indicated he would like the young defender to be a part of the Youth side's trip to Europe.
"Our club has had a couple of kids training and trialling with Sydney FC and I actually got a call from Steve asking for permission for them to take one of them over to Italy soon," explained Sutherland FC president Paul Smith.
"Initially I actually thought it might be one of the other boys but it was Jacob they were interested in. Though it's not official yet, this means they will sign him for their Youth team for sure. They wouldn't be taking him with them if they weren't going to sign him.
"When he came to us he was probably a little bit raw but quite clearly he was very talented, and he's been called into the first grade side by our coach Robbie Stanton because of the talent and hard work he's shown."
It isn't Tratt's first taste of this level, having been included in the Central Coast Mariners Youth squad late last year along with fellow Western graduate Jayden Tumeth-McLeod.
He wasn't able to secure a permanent spot there though which led to him linking with Sutherland.
His work at the back as a stopper has had plenty of time to develop - he was used in the role right through the age groups with Western, and the extra work he's put in to honing his craft is what has seen him take the extra step according to Smith.
"That's what's got him to this level," he said.
"He works very hard, his dad comes down to watch him most weeks and they've obviously put a lot of effort into his football."
The Sutherland club are currently leading both first grade and the Premier League club championship despite supplying a growing list of players to A-League franchises and their Youth off-shoots, but for Smith it is more a case of pride than disappointment when so many of their players are taken.
"We had a player fly out to Greece recently to chase an opportunity, our best under-20s player went to the Brisbane Roar for a week at one stage, we've had a couple of others who will probably leave to join A-League clubs and have players at Perth and on the Central Coast," he explained.
"But we're a club who doesn't really bitch about it, it has hurt us to lose so many good players but you love to see them get these opportunities."
If Tratt is successful in securing a regular position with Sydney FC he has the chance to join Canowindra and Bathurst product Rhyan Grant in the A-League squad.