Gerringong's Tyran Wishart is one step closer to following in his father Rod's footsteps and playing in the NRL after signing a two and a half-year deal with the Melbourne Storm.
After helping the Gerringong Lions win the 2020 Group Seven premiership, Wishart has made seven appearances with St George Illawarra's NSW Cup side this season.
It's on the back of this strong form, which includes two try assists, three offloads and an average of 33 tackles and 61 running metres per contest, that the 20-year-old caught the eye of the Storm's scouts.
"It's extremely exciting, as it gets me closer to achieving my first grade dream," said Wishart, who has missed the past few NSW Cup rounds with an ankle injury.
"Obviously, there's still a long way to go until I achieve that but as I've done my whole career, I'm ready to put my head down and continue to work hard.
"It's well-publicised how strong the Storm's development program is and as exciting as that is, I know it's not just going to happen - a lot of dedication and time goes into it from the player's side.
"The coaching staff are there to put me in the best position to succeed but at the end of the day, it's on me.
"I'm prepared to do whatever it takes to continue to get better, to ensure whenever I get my chance, I grab it with both hands."
Wishart began his career as a junior at Michael Cronin Oval, much like current NRL players Tariq Sims, Reuben Garrick and Jackson Ford.
He obviously made a strong impression on the Red V's coaching staff because the utility back, who can also play hooker, played with the first grade squad during their pre-season trial at Newcastle.
Just when it appeared his career was about to take off, after a strong NSW Cup season opener, the season was cancelled.
But Wishart used the season to get himself stronger and tweak his game back on the South Coast, which allowed him to hit the ground running heading into 2021.
Although he was happy with his progress this season, the Storm's offer came out of left field - with him admitting it all happened 'very quickly'.
"The Storm contacted dad about six weeks ago and said they were interested in me, because of my ability to play multiple positions on the field, but we didn't get our hopes too high because all clubs are keeping tabs on numerous players," Wishart said.
"But to their credit, they kept touching base with us to show they were still keen and earlier this month, they flew me up and back to the Sunshine Coast in one day just so we could meet face-to-face and talk about some things.
"Then last Thursday, they flew me up again and I've been here since, training with the boys and getting to know everyone.
"It's been a whirlwind but I'm super appreciative of this opportunity, as are my whole family - especially dad who is absolutely stoked.
"They've been there through all the high and lows and know how much this means to me, I can't thank them enough for their support."
The son of 177-game veteran Rod is now on his way to Melbourne, from the Sunshine Coast - where he has been training with the Storm, to sign a deal until the end of 2023.
The deal includes being on a development contract for the remainder of 2021 before being upgraded to a lucrative top-30 spot for the next two seasons.
"At this stage, I've signed a development contract with the Storm, which will see me play with one of their two feeder clubs, the Sunshine Coast Falcons or Brisbane East Tigers," he said.
"But that will be delayed a couple of weeks because once I fly to Melbourne on Tuesday afternoon, I won't be able to return to Queensland because of COVID restrictions.
"So when I'm in Melbourne, we will finalise the top-30 deal for the next two years and I'll continue my training with the club at their home base.
"These COVID restrictions have obviously come at a bad time, especially as I've just come back from my ankle injury, but I'm just going to take it in my stride and continue working as hard as I can.
"I've been working my whole life for a chance like this and I'm going to make the most of it."
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