TWO and a half years of commitment and training for Dorrigo's AJ Gilbert has been rewarded with a place in the Australian under-19 rugby union team.
Gilbert will train with the Australian squad in Coffs Harbour from March 24-30 before flying to Dubai for the International Rugby Board's world championships.
Australia has been drawn to play against Scotland, New Zealand and Rumania in the preliminary pool matches.
The talented youngster had a frustrating year in 2005 sitting out most of the season after suffering a knee ligament injury.
His place in the Australian side came after selection in the ARU's talent identification squad for players aged 15-18 in November 2003 and recognises the talent and dedication of this gifted flanker.
The talent identification program is seen as a key developmental pathway for Australian Provincial and National teams, under-16's, schoolboys, under-19's, under-21's, Super 12's and the Wallabies.
Gilbert's path to the Australian under-19 team has included many highlights.
North Coast Academy of Sport presentation, most improved 2001 - 2002.
Represented Mid North Coast zone in Graincorp Junior Rugby Country Championships Under 15's at Forbes 2002.
2002 Under 15's Development Tour to Fiji, players' player and best and fairest.
2003 Bellingen Shire Young Achiever Award - nominated by Dorrigo High School for school and community rugby achievements.
Graincorp Junior Rugby Country Championship - best forward - Under 16's, 2003.
NSW Country Junior Rugby Under 16's, 2003.
NSW Under 16's, 2003 Open's Country All School's XV, 2003.
Open Country All School's Championship, June 6-9 held at Narrabeen. North Coast Schools' captain and most valuable player.
2003 Country School's Development Squad, 2003 touring New Zealand April 2004, as a member of the NSW Country School's team.
North Coast Academy of Sport 2003 captain and best and fairest - Under 16's squad.
Country Schoolboys Championships - 2004 player of the Championship.
2005: Dorrigo Junior Rugby Union Football Club - Under 16's coach (NSW Rugby Foundation Coaching ticket).
2005: Selected as a member of the Australian Institute of Sport's Rugby Union squad.
February 2006: Australian Under 19's selection.
See tomorrow's Coffs Coast Advocate to hear what Australian selection means to this talented player.