WHITSUNDAY Sea Eagles' product Eli Gunders is currently mixing it with the best underage AFL players in the state.
The 15-year-old is representing North Queensland at the Under-16 Queensland State Academy Championships at Burpengary - having played his first game yesterday against Queensland Diversity.
North Queensland will play Gold Coast on Saturday before concluding their carnival on Monday against Brisbane North.
After 11 years plying his trade with the Sea Eagles (starting at Auskick), the centre half back/ruckman said despite making the representative team in previous years he wasn't assured of his place.
"I was worried at the start of selection but luckily I had a pretty good carnival and tested well at camp," he explained.
The carnival, held at the Whitsunday Sports Park earlier this year, saw the squad trimmed to just 23 - with Eli ultimately making the cut and earning his second representative start.
The Brisbane Lions' fan maintains his dream of making an AFL list, and believes there's no better opportunity to enhance those claims than the current state carnival.
"Hopefully I can play well. I have to make sure I trust my instincts and do the little things right," he said.
"I love it (AFL). I've always enjoyed being active but AFL has always been my thing."
Eli admits he needs to work on his fitness and goal-kicking, but his thirst to succeed is undeniable - a trait which is sure to see him go far.
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