GEORGE Stevens' name has swirled through high-level sporting circles since primary school.
He's always been a force on the football field and a standout on the basketball court.
Stevens was, until recently, the biggest, tallest and strongest on his teams.
Then and now, he remains one of the most dedicated and skilful.
Stevens, who at 17 speaks with a maturity which belies his years, has another attribute in spades - gratitude.
It's something he's had to call on recently after a serious knee injury forced him to the sidelines.
Stevens, who has represented Victoria in both football and basketball since under 12 level, had to wrap his mind around missing 12 months of sport.
A chance to play for Vic Country at the AFL under 18 national championships slipped from his grasp and his bottom-age NAB League season became a write off.
So what does a teenager who dreams of becoming a professional athlete do? He takes up coaching.
Stevens is helping South Warrnambool plot its path to the Hampden league grand final.
He plays a key role in the Roosters' training program and is invested on game day, working with individual players.
It was a daunting task for someone still in high school.
"I have learned more this year off the field than what I would playing which is pretty cool," Stevens told The Standard.
"It's funny, earlier on the confidence definitely wasn't there when you approach and talk to players that are pretty well-regarded around not only Hampden league but footy in general, the likes of Josh Saunders and Ricky Henderson, but I think that's the best part about our club, age is just a number.
"Everyone has that trust in everyone and we understand where we're all at.
"The boys give me a lot of confidence and they listen and we work together. I learn and they learn. It's a great process. I am very grateful."
Stevens credited older brother Archie, who is playing for Carlton's VFL team, and South Warrnambool coach Mat Battistello for helping keep his focus on track.
"It's been one of the toughest things I have had to deal with which has made me even more grateful in saying an injury is the worst thing that has happened to me," he said.
"When it all went down (in November last year) he (Battistello) said 'there's no way I am going to let this be a so-called waste of a year, I'm going to get you involved and you're going to help me out'.
"I am so grateful for what Batters has been able to help me with and seeing Arch do so well this year, I feel like I've been able to handle it pretty well and have a good perspective on things.
"That has been the best thing, outside of some self-motivation, seeing what he's doing is crazy.
"Watching him play, it's almost like I am playing myself. I am that proud of him and that happy for him."
Stevens admits his emotions have fluctuated throughout his extensive rehabilitation and second surgery setback.
"I have found lots of ways to cope; figuring out ways to fight through adversity," he said.
"When something you love so much gets taken away, it is tough but I have found ways to steer clear of digging myself into a big hole.
"As of recently, I have been getting into some podcast stuff, and I am a massive fan of this guy named Ben Crowe.
"I have taken a lot of learnings off him about being able to find inner motivation and resilience."
Calling on those words of wisdom has been crucial for Stevens, who thanked Warrnambool-based physiotherapist Toby Pettigrew, the team at Ultimate Performance Rehab and his surgeon for their expertise.
"Unfortunately I had a pretty big hiccup, about 10 weeks ago now I had to go in and get some more surgery," he said.
"I had a left meniscus repaired. Basically they repaired it in my first surgery with my reconstruction and then it didn't quite do as it should.
"At the six-month mark I was looking to run and got the final scan just to make sure it was all good before I got going.
"They found a little tear in the meniscus which they had to repair. It was a bit of a full-on procedure considering where the tear was.
"I am feeling really good and feeling strong again. I see my surgeon in a couple of weeks."
AFL clubs were circling the Emmanuel College student, who is completing two year 12 subjects in year 11, before his injury.
He'd represented Vic Country at under 17 level and made his under 19 GWV Rebels debut at just 16.
Stevens, who has picked football over basketball, is seen as a big-bodied midfielder who could read the play off half-back if needed.
Playing forward is also an option.
But for now the 190-centimetre, 93-kilogram athlete takes delight in watching his South Warrnambool teammates enjoy success.
"Watching all the people close to me do so well and watching all my mates go out there, it gives me a lot of motivation to keep going," he said.
"I have dreams and goals I want to get to so I know every day that I go out and take another step forward by doing rehab is a step closer to those.
"I haven't been taking it lightly and I've been trying to smash it out through the inner motivation I have."
Stevens said the support he'd received from the south-west community had been overwhelming.
"It almost gets to the point where there's that many messages where you're like 'wow, this is just crazy how many people care for me'," he said.
"I couldn't express that gratefulness enough because without everyone reaching out I'd be pretty lost."
When Stevens reaches his goal, he'll be the one sending out messages to all those who supported him along the way.
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