EASTS hockey stalwart Ray Rodda may only be 25 but he is a young man mature beyond his years.
Thrust into Far North Coast hockey first grade at just 14 years of age, Rodda had no choice but to learn leadership skills, and to learn them quickly.
He is forever indebted to the club for nurturing him into the man he is today.
“I finished at Under-15 level and went straight into the seniors,” Rodda said.
“It was tough but the older blokes really looked after me.
“The culture was great – they showed me the way.
“And it was so exciting because there I was playing with blokes I had looked up to since I was eight or nine.
“Words couldn’t describe it.”
And on Saturday, 11 years after being thrust into the furnace of first grade, Rodda played his final match for Easts on Saturday in his team’s 4-0 win over Kingscliff in JH William FNC Hockey League at Murwillumbah.
To add to the fairytale, Rodda scored a goal in the dying stages of the match.
It was after he scored the goal, jogging his way back to the restart, where it all started to sink in for Rodda.
Flashing through his mind were images of a glorious career in the Northern Rivers.
It was a career he started 21 years ago in the junior ranks and saw him captain Easts to a premiership in 2006 as well as represent NSW and Australian Country.
“I was lucky to score with three minutes to go,” Rodda said.
“After I scored and I was running back to my position, that’s when it kicked in and I thought, ‘This is it’.”
Rodda will soon be bound for Tasmania where he will take on a promotions job for the Boral construction company.
There, he can be closer to his girlfriend, Ella, and her family.
When Rodda made his first grade debut 11 years ago he was lost for words and he was almost lost for words again last Saturday afternoon.
“I’ve captained Easts since I was 17-years-old and there are some players at the club I’ve coached since they were juniors,” he said.
“So it was a bit sad to say goodbye especially to some of the younger players that look up to me a bit.
“But you never know, I might be back to play up here again one day.”
Rodda paid tribute to his hockey-loving family in supporting his rise to become one of the region’s best players.
“My father Michael and uncles Mark and Rodney are pretty well respected in the sport,” he said.
“And mum has been a great influence driving me around everywhere to play.
“She only just took my younger sister Danielle all the way down to Mittagong for NSW All Schools try-outs.”
Rodda said he is looking forward to resuming his hockey career in Tasmania.