MONTHS of intensive training have seen Bishop Druitt College student Luke Strother make giant strides in the world of rugby league.
Having played rugby through his high school years, Strother made a return to league for the Sawtell Panthers at the start of the 2004 season.
Since then Strother has progressed so well in league circles that he has just been selected in the NSW Combined Independent Schools squad.
"I was enjoying my rugby, but all my mates were playing league so I went and joined them," he said.
And it has proved to be a successful move. Strother's recent football resume is impressive for a 16-year-old.
Since starting at the Panthers last year, Strother has been selected in the Group 2 Under-16 team, played with Sawtell's first grade side earlier in the year in the Sevens tournament, and spent his summer with the Country Academy squad, chosen from the most promising under-age players in groups 2 and 3.
And now the lock/hooker has made the final cut of 20 players in the state squad.
"Before the final squad was picked, there was a camp at Narrabeen for the last 35 players," Strother explained.
"It was pretty intense with a lot of training.
"We were training for something like seven hours a day."
The way the successful squad mem- bers were informed of their inclusion in the state side was a little unusual.
"The selectors came into our rooms to tell each guy one by one whether they had made it or not," he said.
"When they said I was in, I was so excited."
Even more unusual, the players that were chosen were asked to attend a final training session only a couple of hours later, starting at eight o'clock that night.
"That was a pretty intense session because everyone who made the team was so excited and they were just right into it."
The state squad will be playing three trial matches in June before playing at the National Championships in the first week of the July school holidays.