When Tumut Eagles defender, Bailey O’Neill, played his first game of first grade at just 15-years-old he was blown away by how big everyone was compared to him.
Playing against people twice his age and twice his size, O’Neill was understandably nervous when he came on as a substitute against the Northern Riverina Nomads. But that didn’t stop him from surprising even himself when the ball came to his feet.
“I came on as a sub to Right Mid for a bit,” O’Neill said.
“I got the ball from outside the box and just had a go and it ended up going in… Somehow.
“I guess that was my debut goal, it felt pretty awesome to get that goal.”
Since his first appearance in the Pascoe cup O’Neill has now found his home playing Right Back for the Eagles each week.
Starting his career with a knack for goal scoring after bagging three in his opening season, the goals have dried up somewhat now in his third season with the club.
But the glory doesn’t concern O’Neill who’s happy to sit at the back in defence and let his other teammate’s finish off his hard work.
“In my first season I scored three goals, ever since then this is my third season now and I haven’t scored any since that first season, I’m on a bit of a dry spell,” O’Neill said.
“I’ve settled into my spot I play Right Back now I play there every week.
“I’m enjoying that spot now, I don’t get to have the glory but I like it back there.”
Born in Tumut, O’Neill has played for the Eagles since he was eight years old and has never thought of another sport other than soccer.
Having played for representative sides and winning a few competitions along the way, O’Neill has now found his feet playing in the Pascoe cup after enduring some “rough times” as the young side warmed to the standard of first-grade soccer.
“After playing so many seasons you get seasoned with the contact and the skill, pace of the game so I guess it’s made me a better player,” O’Neill explained.
“And everyone else who has come around is the same age as me and there is a lot of us, our team is a really young squad.
“It’s good for chemistry because we all know how we play since under-8’s we’ve all played with each other.”
And their persistence paid off last year when the Eagles won the Pascoe Plate, a competition battled out against the 5th and 8th placed teams at the end of a season.
“It was awesome,” he said.
“I won a lot of comps in the juniors but that’s gotta be the best, that atmosphere on the night it was just awesome.
“We played Cootamundra and won 2-1, we scored in the last 10 minutes of the game so it was a very tight game.”
Still a very young side, the Eagles are improving each year as they grow and develop as a team and begin to match it with the best in the Pascoe Cup.
And for the players, it’s been a long and hard-fought road but it’s the passion for the club that keeps them coming in week in and week out.
“I don’t think I could leave the Eagles to be honest it’s just a great club, they’ve always been there.”
O’Neill will be taking to the Bull Paddock for his much loved Eagles club again this weekend and is coming up against the daunting opposition of Lake Albert.
But the defender is full of confidence in his side and will be doing his best to help the Eagles get their season back on track.
“I’m pretty confident we’ll come away with one point or even three, I’m confident we’ll come away with something,” he said.
“They’ve got some notorious strikers but anything’s possible and I reckon we can hold them out… hopefully anyway.”