PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Gympie star striker's inspiring journey
FOOTBALL: Rohan Polley's sporting journey is as inspiring as they come.
From struggling to cope with everyday life with autism as a youngster, the 15-year-old Gympie United player has "blossomed” through his love of football, especially since becoming a striker last season.
Now a confident young man already standing about 193cm tall, Polley has scored almost half of his team's 29 goals through five games this season, helping them sit atop the Sunshine Coast Football under-15 Division 2 ladder.
The Gympie Times' Player of the Week
Polley netted his 14th goal of the year with a "bullet of a volley” in United's 3-1 win over Flinders last weekend.
"I like kicking the ball around, running, playing with my teammates,” Polley said.
"(My favourite goal) was one Noah Albion crossed in, which was really good.
"There's a really low chance of getting there (playing professionally) but it would be good. If possible I'd love to.”
Polley's mother, Lisa, has watched her son's progression with love and pride.
"To see him come from a mostly non-verbal child that had to cope day-to-day, to this confident 6ft3 tower, the change that football has brought him is amazing,” she said.
"Especially this year as a striker, his coach last year took him from the back and put him in as a striker and he just blossomed. He used to hold back a bit but once he found out what he could do that was it, he was off.”
Despite the success so far, Polley's biggest highlight of the year is still to come. On July 1 he will fly to Spain to take part in the prestigious Donosti Cup, alongside about 9000 players from 640 teams representing 27 countries.
The trip starts with a week in Madrid, where Polley will participate in a training camp attended by some of the world's top coaches and scouts. He'll also get to visit the hallowed turf of the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, home of La Liga giants Real Madrid.
The tournament's nationally televised opening ceremony follows, in which Polley will march as a representative of Australia, before he plays in San Sebastian against some of the world's brightest future stars as a member of coach and tour operator Chris Engelbrecht's LS Talents Queensland under-15 squad.
"I used to be hesitant taking a shot but now I'm confident,” Polley said.
"I'm really excited.”
Polley is the second nomination of The Gympie Times Player of the Week segment, culminating in the Athlete of the Year award across all sports to close out 2019.
The Athlete of the Year will win a valuable prize (to be announced) and an invitation to a The GT Club event which has already featured the likes of swimming queen Lisa Curry and (soon) cricket legend Jeff Thomson.
Nominate by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.