Jackson Rodwell never shies away from a challenge, in fact, he runs head first into them.
For nearly two years, the Orange youngster has been training alongside some of the best young rugby league players in the state as part of the Sydney Roosters academy.
With 6.45am training sessions in Sydney twice a week, combined with a packed school schedule at St Stanislaus' College, it's tough work for the 15-year-old.
"Getting up in the morning is definitely the hardest part about it," he said.
With the level of competition and intensity "much higher" at the academy that in the Central West, Rodwell believed his game had gone to another level since taking up the challenge.
"The players there are at the same level as me, so it tests me. I wouldn't call it a shock though, because I'd premeditated what it would be like," he said of his first impressions.
"I've learnt new stuff that if I'd just stayed out here, I wouldn't have."
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If he's not playing or training for his footy team, you can find him in the gym.
It's that desire to continually improve that first caught the eye of Roosters scout Rob McAlpine in 2022 during a game of rugby union.
"He's pretty skilful and has a good pass. Even in the last 12 months I've seen his game develop," the Mudgee-based McAlpline said.
"He's the sort of player that every team needs to have. He's got a bit of skill to match as well. He's good on both sides of the ball and from some reports, he's talented at most sports."
McAlpine added that the goal of the development program was to give players the opportunity to upskill and take what they learn back to their own club.
"Then if they're keen, they keep rolling with it," he said.
"The ultimate goal for most kids is to go to the highest level."
That's certainly the case for Rodwell who has his eyes set on both Super Rugby and the NRL.
"It's a big dream," the second-rower added.
On June 6, Rodwell got to lace up the boots for a match against the North Sydney Bears development team.
His father, Mitch Rodwell, was in the crowd to cheer his son on.
"The first time I saw him with all the Roosters stuff and the high up players, it's like a dream," he said.
"The work ethic he's shown, that's what I'm most happy about."
While the future is never set in stone, one certainty is Rodwell will continue to train the house down in search of his ultimate goal.
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