MATT GROAT ENJOYS THE JOURNEY
By Wayne Cousins
15/09/2011 3:22:42 PM
The small township of Rankin Springs would have been glued to their television sets last Friday night when one of their own entered the Telstra Premiership finals arena.
The rural Riverina town, located about 562 km west of Sydney, would have taken great delight in seeing Matt Groat hitting the ball up for the
Wests Tigers against premiers St George-Illawarra Dragons.
According to Groat, around 80 people live in Rankin Springs. All would have been cheering loudly for this quiet, young country boy who left home five years ago to follow his rugby league dream.
Groat’s journey to Sydney started when Wests Tigers put this tough, knock about young kid into the strict boarding school at St Gregorys College, Campbelltown – one of the most successful rugby league schools in the country.
For four years, Groat studied at the school whilst plying his league trade on a Wests Tigers scholarship.
Groat was earmarked by Wests Tigers as a player with enormous potential. On what he has shown in just his first season at Wests Tigers, it was a wise investment.
Having toured with the Australian Schoolboys in November and December, Groat only joined Wests Tigers U20s squad in January.
From early on in the season, it was hard not to be impressed by Groat’s bulky frame, high work-rate, and his passion to not let his opponent get on top of him.
Head Coach Tim Sheens knew he had a good one. And Sheens, a true believer in giving young players an opportunity despite their age, called Groat up to make his first grade debut in round 12 after full-back Wade McKinnon was injured in the warm up.
For 75 minutes, Groat sat nervously on the interchange bench before being given a run. Just two hours earlier, he starred in the U20s win.
Nine games on, Groat is heavily involved in the Wests Tigers finals campaign. It has been a surreal experience for the 19-year-old.
“It has been really good and to be able to play with a top bunch of blokes has been excellent,’’ Groat said of his season.
“Playing first grade has been a big step up for me. This time last year I would have been sitting in the boarding school watching the footy on tv.
“I really wasn’t expecting to be where I am now. Things have gone my way, so I am pretty happy. I just like to thank Tim Sheens for having the faith in me.”