Young Sam Mayes used to dominate the junior colts football competition in Port Pirie and was soon hitched as a rising star to the Brisbane Lions.
Now an AFL player with more than 80 matches under his belt, Sam has an even brighter future ahead of him as his career continues to unfold.
Thoughts of Port Pirie and his family are never far away.
His father is Leon Mayes, a former champion runner who works shiftwork at the smelter while commuting from Adelaide where he lives with wife Janine.
Janine is expected to watch Sam play against the Adelaide Crows in Brisbane on Saturday when she journeys there to celebrate his 23rd birthday that day.
“It is the first time that Mum has come up for my birthday,” Sam said by phone on Wednesday.
“She is coming with a couple of friends and I will arrange some tickets for them.
“I always tend to reflect on where I have come from … you get a little bit proud of Pirie and my family and where I am now.
“That kind of thing drives me. You just try to make your family proud.”
In Port Pirie, Sam not only starred in junior football on Wednesday nights, but backed up at weekends for the Port A grade team.
He said the speed and skill involved in AFL are big changes from the local competition.
He has mostly played at half-back and has one day a week off from his full-time job as a footballer amid the grind of training, team meetings and playing.
On his day off, a Wednesday, he likes to work in the building industry for a former club player.
“I was never into books and studying so I try to get out a bit and do some building work,” he said.
He concedes the Lions have struggled at times this season, but remained optimistic.
“We have been competitive and been in winning positions and cost ourselves with poor turnovers,” he said.
“It has been a little frustrating, but we are improving which is good.”
One of his biggest fans is Robyn Welsh, a Pirie retailer, who loves to watch her nephew on television.
No doubt, Robyn is one of the family members who inspire him in his whirlwind career that spirited him to Queensland.
“It has happened pretty quickly to be honest. I have been up here for five years now,” he said.
Sam was unable to say who he would be playing on in the Crows match, but one wonders whether he will be guarding star goalsneak Eddie Betts?
The Lions will have the home ground advantage and, who knows, an ex-South Australian could help turn the tables on the visitors and quell the opposition?