After making his first-grade debut against the Wagga Kangaroos at just 16-years-old, Tumut Blues enforcer, Zac Masters, will run out against the team he debuted against this weekend, but now as one of the best players in the group 9 first grade competition.
Masters currently sits tied at the top of the best and fairest tally in the first-grade competition following a standout season for the blues where he has bagged eight tries in nine games playing in the front row.
The 20-year-old’s talent has been noticed by a lot of people but most notably by Canberra Raiders head coach, Ricky Stuart, who asked Masters to train with the NRL side during pre-season this year.
But Masters got his start while sitting on the bench still covered in mud and shivering from his under-18s match, coming onto the field at Wagga and for his first taste of first grade.
“I played 18’s beforehand it was a wet and miserable day,” Masters said.
“I sat on the bench for first grade for the first time, I sat there for 20 minutes still wet and cold from the 18’s game.
“Went out there and loved every minute of it when I ran out and I’ve played first grade ever since.”
Masters has represented the Blues since the under-7s and has loved representing his hometown.
Although most Tumut age groups have won themselves at least one premiership during their careers, Masters is still yet to even qualify for a Grand Final with Tumut and hopes to one day lead the Blues to a premiership.
Despite being a passionate Blues player, Masters has also represented other clubs during his short career having played for both the Parramatta Eels and the Canberra Raiders.
Masters only spent three months with the Eels before he decided he preferred Twickenham Oval to Parramatta city.
But after getting a second chance with the Canberra Raiders under 20’s, Masters began to hit his straps and reach his potential.
“Spending time in Canberra brought me up another level and I’ve grown a lot as a footballer,” Masters said.
“I loved it, it was a great experience, I learned a lot from that too.”
Masters had a strong season as starting prop for the NYC Raiders team but it was his opportunity to train with the NRL team during preseason this year which had the biggest impact.
“I did the preseason with first grade this year in Canberra but didn’t get the contract I was after so I came back to Tumut,” Masters said.
“But I’ve become a lot better footballer just from that experience.
“Even from last year I played 20 or 30 odd games with the 20’s but just that experience training with first grade under Ricky I think I learnt a lot more from that.”
Under the eyes of Ricky Stuart and rubbing shoulders with some of the best players in the NRL, Masters learned a lot about his skills but also about what could be next for his career.
“They always talk about a player like me, I’m not a massive bloke so playing in the forwards I cant expect to make it too soon,” Masters said.
“I’ve just gotta take my time and chip away at it if I’m gonna go down the football path, so its just learning to be patient and not being too disappointed not playing NRL.”
But his stint with the Raiders didn’t just benefit Masters, the skillful prop is now passing on his experience to the Blues squad and has been a massive boost according to Blues co-coach, Dean Bristow.
“Zac came back with a great bit of experience that he gained over at the Raiders and he’s been passing that onto the boys,” Bristow said.
“He’s been huge and it easily shows on the field what he does for us, he can quite easily get through 80 minutes each week and probably tops the tackle count and hit up count as well.”
And Bristow will be hoping he will be at his best this weekend with the Blues needing a win against the Wagga Roos to get their season back on track.
But Masters who prefers to stay relaxed and easy going ahead of games will just be proud of representing his beloved junior club and doing everything he can for the teammates around him on Sunday.
“I just go out and try to do my job each and whatever happens after that happens,” he said.
“I’m very passionate about playing for Tumut and playing for my hometown as every Tumut boy is.
“Tumut’s got a proud history in rugby league so it’s always good to pull on that blue jumper and run out each week.”