17-year-old Cats ruckman is Gympie sport's 'next big thing'
AFL: Of all the Gympie Cats' shining lights so far this season, perhaps the most unlikely source has come from 17-year-old ruckman Ronan Neville.
The first-year Cat came from nowhere to take the team's number one ruck spot for their Round 1 win over the Moreton Bay Lions, and in the eyes of his coach Dave Carroll, Neville has gone from strength to strength since.
Carroll called the soft-spoken, 200cm former Pomona Demon the Cats' "most consistent player so far this year”, referencing his endurance around the ground on top of his tap work in the middle.
A modest Neville said he was happy with the coach's praise but quickly deflected the plaudits to his teammates.
"Being my first year at the Cats, I wasn't really expecting to play seniors - maybe reserves or something like that - but it's really good to hear it from (Carroll) and the other boys who have been really supportive as well,” he said.
"I'm loving being out with the boys. It's a big step up from playing under-16s and 17s and going straight to seniors, there's way more intensity.
"All the boys are really welcoming, they've included everyone including the first-years, they make you feel a part of it.”
Neville said his Aussie rules journey began in Pomona with a bit of inspiration from his mates.
"A few mates were playing and they asked me to come along to Pomona, that was seven or eight years ago.
"I played centre half forward for a bit and as I grew up I played more in the ruck.
"Last season I was alternating between the ruck and the backline, and a bit forward.”
A mixed start to the season has seen the Cats pull off a remarkable Round 1 victory over Moreton Bay, concede a heavy defeat to flag fancies Wynnum in their home opener and cough up a game-long lead to Hinterland last weekend.
Neville said the squad had continued working hard on the track ahead of their chance at redemption at home against Kedron today.
"We need to improve our turnovers, The turnovers have been really killing us. We do a lot of fitness work. We're pretty confident we're on the right track,” he said.