FOR years, many in the hockey fraternity have had Culburra Beach's Sam Wright-Smith pegged to play for Australia one day, following countless caps for New South Wales.
This vision and Wright-Smith's dream have finally come to fruition, after the 16-year-old was named in the Australian All Schools under 16s team.
The Shoalhaven High School student's journey to this selection, started when he and Nowra High School's Scott Crisafi were named in the NSW CHS All Schools squad after firstly playing at the under 18s state titles in Ballina.
From here, the pair's NSW CHS All Schools squad, along with the CCC and CIS teams, went into a training camp at Narrabeen, from which the All Schools team was picked.
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This selection saw the pair's NSW side compete at the Australian All Schools Carnival, held at the Newcastle International Hockey Centre, Broadmeadow from August 3-10 - with their first match being against Queensland.
"Every game was a hard fought match, beginning with the Queensland game where we found ourselves down 3-nil after the first quarter," Wright-Smith, who co-read the athlete's oath at the opening ceremony, said.
"But we never gave up and managed to fight back for a 3-all draw."
Following this draw, the duo's team recorded big wins against state counterparts NSW Blues (7-nil) and South Australia (7-1), before being held by Victoria (nil-all).
"Both us and Victoria had numerous chances to score and win the match, but neither of us could convert our chances, in the highly entertaining game," Wright-Smith said.
This scoreless result was followed by a 2-all draw with Western Australia, before downing ACT 3-nil and Tasmania 4-nil in their final pool games.
"These results saw us finish third overall on the ladder and matched up against ACT for the bronze medal, which we won 4-1," Wright-Smith said.
Upon reflecting on the week-long tournament, the Illawarra South Coast Hockey product was happy with his play, especially alongside good mate Crisafi.
"Most of us have been playing together for three or four years now, with only a handful of new players who we hadn't played with at state level before," he said.
"This meant we played pretty well as a team as we've played together before.
"It was another great experience playing with a teammate [Crisafi] who I've grown up with since we first played together in the Shoalhaven under sevens team.
"This year we've also played for the South Coast team together as well as the Illawarra under 18s team - it's always great to play with someone from your home association."
A bronze medal wasn't the only thing Wright-Smith walked away from the tournament with, after being named in the Australian All Schools side.
"It's a honour to be named in the team alongside players from other states and territories, some of whom I've been playing against for years," he said.
"One of my goals this year was to make the team and I'm really grateful I've been selected to play overseas for a national team.
"As my first ever national selection, it's exciting to be chosen to play in the green and gold.
"I worked really hard leading up to this tournament, so to see all of the hard work pay off is a great result."
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Wright-Smith was one of five NSW players - Rhys Cropper, Tyler Gaddes, Lachlan Howard and Koby Johnstone - chosen in the squad, alongside Western Australia's Hamish Adamson, Hunter Banyard, Thomas Keating and Julian Nosiara, Queensland's Diamid Chappell, Paul Hubard, Max Robson and Nye Roberts, Victoria's Liam Henderson, Hayden Pease and Will Rutley, ACT's Joshua Carter and Tasmania's Keenan Johnson, for the proposed South African tour.
"I've never had the opportunity to play hockey overseas before, so it will be great to experience an international tour and play hockey on some great pitches against the South African teams," he said.
Wright-Smith will now shift his attentions to the upcoming indoor season, including both the under 18 and open's indoor state championships - while also playing with UNSW (Sydney) and Wests (Illawarra) and training at the under 18 state AAP (Athlete Acceleration program) camp in September.
Kiama High School's Mackenzie Ford was also in action at the All Schools carnival, playing for the girls NSW Blues side.