IT is rare enough for a boy who has just turned 16 to be making a name for himself in Northern NSW State League first grade.
But it is even rarer still for a goalkeeper that young to be holding his own.
Towering Newcastle Jets Youth keeper Adam Pearce is doing just that this season.
The raw talent moved from Forster to enrol at Hunter Sports High School and pursue his dream of professional football at the start of the second term last year.
A self-confessed ‘‘really average keeper’’ when he arrived, the 198-centimetre Pearce has put in the hard yards and leapfrogged older glovemen in the junior Jets pecking order to be one of the club’s most exciting prospects.
And with Young Socceroos keeper Jack Duncan switching to Perth Glory, the door has opened even wider for Pearce at Newcastle.
Jets Youth coach Clayton Zane said Pearce still needed to improve in all areas but was shaping as a potential star.
‘‘He’s made big strides in a short space of time, so much so that we decided to move on a couple of keepers we were a bit uncertain about and go with the younger one, and he’s benefited from it,’’ Zane said.
‘‘He’s played in the first six matches and he’s not looked out of place. Against Olympic he made a mistake and let one in, but against Weston he was terrific. At the weekend against Edgeworth he had another good game.’’
Zane said Pearce’s height was an obvious bonus, but it was his work on the ground that set him apart from his peers.
‘‘He has size so he looks like a goalkeeper and has a really good presence in goal,’’ he said.
‘‘But the big standout for everyone on the coaching staff is he’s got really good feet, which is so valuable.
‘‘He becomes like another field player.
‘‘I’ve seen 25-year-old players around first teams who don’t have that. He can play longer passes and he’s comfortable with shorter passes. He needs to improve on it, but the signs are good.
‘‘Now it’s about getting technique right with his hands.’’
Pearce, who has played soccer since the age of four, was a centre-back until under13s and believed that helped him develop a solid passing game.
His success, though, has not come without sacrifices, both from him and his family.
He moved to Newcastle on his own and lived with families at Minmi and Cardiff Heights before his parents and younger brother and sister moved from Forster to New Lambton Heights last November.
‘‘It was great when they moved down and supported what I was doing,’’ Pearce said.
‘‘They are really enjoying the move, too.’’
On the field, Pearce said he was relishing the challenge of playing senior football for the first time.
‘‘It’s been good,’’ he said.
‘‘It’s a big change from Forster, and I haven’t really played against men before.
‘‘The team are really good blokes to be around and my goalkeeping coach, Bob Catlin, has been great as well.
‘‘He’s helped a lot and I’ve been down to Sydney with Jim Fraser to do a bit extra when I wasn’t in the team, so I could get myself in there.
Pearce will face potentially his biggest test to date when the Jets take on leaders and defending major premiers Broadmeadow at Wanderers Oval on Sunday.
Opposing keeper Chris Bowling is 20 years his senior.