Perth’s lights shine bright for most young country sportsmen, but Kalgoorlie College and Souths soccer star Jace Reilly believes a move back to the Goldfields this season was a step in the right direction.
Reilly, 16, claimed the Goldfields Soccer Association’s highest individual honour as the men’s best and fairest and under-17 best and fairest with Souths in his first season of senior soccer after returning to Kalgoorlie-Boulder to take up an apprenticeship.
It came after a stint captaining Curtin University’s State League under-18s in Perth last year, but in the vein of Kalgoorlie’s long tradition of blooding AFL stars, Reilly has relished the experience of playing against full-grown men in the Goldfields this year.
“It was probably a bit more physical in seniors — not saying the juniors aren’t physical, but it’s just that the presence is a lot more when you’re playing seniors,” he said.
“It was a better competition here for the A-grade than the 18s in Perth.
“When I get older, maybe 20, I’ll probably move back to Perth and try my best (to play NPL).”
Reilly has emerged as a linchpin for the Goldfields under-17 side that will fly the flag for the region at country week in Perth next week — three years after he scored the winning goal in a triumphant Goldfields under-13 side against Country Coastal.
He will be joined by teammate Kyle Lamprecht, who capped his campaign with a best-on-ground performance for Souths in their 5-1 win over Norths in the GSA under-17 grand final.
Their coach Ben Rooney, who also played alongside the boys with Kalgoorlie College this season, said their performances had exceeded expectations.
“I expected them to do well, probably not to make such a key impact so soon,” he said.
“I was pretty confident they’d both succeed, but they’ve gone above and beyond expectations.”
The Goldfields were pipped in the under-17 boys’ grand final last year by Leeuwin-Naturaliste.
Rooney said the quick elevation of Kalgoorlie juniors into senior football had helped the progress of the talent pool in recent years.
“I think it’s really good, particularly that the majority of them step up into the seniors throughout their 17s years, which makes a huge difference physically,” he said.
“I think it’s really important they get the opportunity to play against men early on and at 16 or 17, most of them are built ready to compete at that level.”