Life is a highway to Aussie Rules glory for Isaac Hay
ISAAC Hay has seen more of the Pacific Highway than anything else in recent months - but it's all been worth it.
The 17-year-old will play against some of the country's best young Aussie rules players for Queensland in the forthcoming NAB Rising Stars National Under-18 Championship.
Selection was just desserts for the Alstonville player, who spends several hours a week on the road himself north for training and then burning the midnight oil with homework duties.
"I was excited - and relieved," Isaac said. "I would have been devastated if I hadn't got in.
"I wouldn't know what to do if I hadn't have got into the state team.
"All that driving has finally built up to something." Isaac is following in the footsteps of older brother Caleb, who is also a promising player.
The pair both play for the Southport Sharks AFL side in the North East AFL league.
Isaac, who is in Year 12 at Alstonville High School, was spotted playing for the Northern Rivers Storm under-16 side and later invited to the Gold Coast Suns academy.
He travels north three or four times a week for training with talented other players.
"They make you do heaps of fitness work," he said. "One time I actually vomited, it was so tough.
"Sometimes I drive home, it's 10.30pm and I have to do my homework. It's pretty intense.
"It's hard but rewarding." As well as playing games with the Suns' reserve side, he has rubbed shoulders with renowned senior players like Karmichael Hunt at training sessions.
"He came up and said hello to the young guys," Isaac said. "He treats you like any other player.
"Players like him are so professional. It's awesome." The Queenslanders will play warm-up matches against Victorian academy sides and then face teams from across the country at the Championship.
One match will be played at Melbourne's 56,000 Etihad Stadium.
"Half the Melbourne teams' players will probably be drafted into AFL clubs next year," Isaac said.
"We want to smash them and show we can beat them."
Versatile Isaac, who can across the midfield and forward lines, said he loved the sport's rough-and-tumble nature.
"I love how physical it is," he said. "You have to put your body on the line.
"It's tough but it's so skilful as well. You have to work so hard to get anywhere on the pitch.
"I love it."