EVERY rugby league player grows up dreaming of playing in the NRL and Ryan James could be about to move one-step closer to that goal.
The 18-year-old has had a massive year; winning a grand final with the Nowra-Bomaderry Jets, where he was named man of the match and also took out the Roy Stewart Rookie of the Year award at last Friday night’s Group 7 presentation.
James has been on a bit of a rugby league journey since he first pulled the boots on for the Bomaderry Swamp Rats in the under 7s.
He played with the Swamp Rats until the under 11s and then spent a year with the Nowra Warriors in the under 12s.
James divided his time between Illawarra Sports High in Berkeley and Bomaderry High while he was at school and finished his junior football with Albion Park-Oak Flats.
At Albion Park, he won premierships in the under 15s, 16s and 18s and last year won another 18s premiership with Shellharbour.
While he had lived in Wollongong when he was attending Illawarra Sports High, a move back to the Shoalhaven saw him join the Jets at the start of 2014.
At the beginning of the season, James thought it looked positive, particularly with the Brandon brothers on board.
But he said he never though they would go as far as winning the premiership.
“You’re always hopeful, but no, I didn’t,” he said.
“After five rounds, I thought we were gone, but then Choc (Geoff Johnson) came back against the Sharks and they only beat us on the buzzer.
“After that I thought we could definitely compete with the top sides and thought, why can’t we win it?”
James described the final month of the season as unreal and said winning a first grade grand final was a massive achievement.
His Mad Monday celebrations were cut short as he prepared for a trial with the St George Illawarra Dragons under 20s on the Wednesday.
It seems pulling the handbrake early was a good decision for James, who has been named in a preliminary 30-man squad for next season.
He will start training on November 1 and go through pre-season, and is hoping to be signed when the final, 25-man squad is named in February.
“It’s what I’ve wanted for a couple of years,” he said.
“You can get subbed in and out, or I might be lucky enough to get a starting position all year, I’ll just have to see how I go,” he added.
James trialled last season and felt he was unlucky to miss out, but was happy to get the chance to play first grade for the Jets.
While he is confident he is good enough to make the step up, he would be happy to go around with the Jets again in 2015.
“I’ll be more than happy to come back down here and try and try to go back to back. “Hopefully Geoff decides not to retire, because he’s a big part of the team and then we can bring it back for 2015 as well.”
But ideally, James would love to be playing for the Dragons under 20s next year, which he hopes will be a stepping stone to the NRL.
“That’s the dream,” he said.
“I think everyone wants to play NRL. After the 20s, if it’s not NRL, I’ll try and break into NSW Cup and go from there.
“But I’ve got to make the under 20s first, so I’m just taking it one step at a time.”