ONE of Tamworth's fastest-rising rugby league stars will strut his stuff alongside some of the state's best players in England later this year.
Farrer Memorial Agricultural High School student Mark Simon will take his place in the NSW country under-16 team after impressive performances for the Greater Northern Tigers recently.
The Tamworth native played a pivotal role in the Tigers' Andrew Johns Cup campaign, helping them reach the semi-finals, before missing the team's final clash with a knee injury.
"To be honest, I was never really looking to stand out while playing for the Tigers," Simon told the Leader.
"I was more focused on just doing my role for the team."
The front-rower said it was "pretty exciting" to line up for the Tigers alongside the region's top players.
"It was really great to play with a great bunch of boys," he said.
"For my own game, I guess I learnt a lot about defensive skills and the fundamental basics you need in football.
"I made a few good tackles and scored a few tries, so it was a really good competition all around."
Simon was named in the NSW country under-16 side at the completion of the Andrew Johns Cup final, which was won by Northern Rivers.
"After they announced it at the game, I had my coach and a few other people ring me and text me letting me know I'd been picked," Simon said.
"It was all really exciting."
The side will now come together for several trial matches in Sydney before leaving for England for a two-week tour in November.
Lining up alongside Simon will be Tigers captain and Moree local Jock Brazel, who was a star of the Tigers' Andrew Johns Cup campaign.
"It's a pleasure to be named in the same side as Jock," Simon said.
"He is a top bloke, a great player and it should be really fun to play alongside him."
Simon said he would now turn his attention to representing his school and preparing to play in the country squad.
"I really have to thank my parents and coaches for helping me reach this point," he said.
"They have all been really supportive and I'll be working hard to be prepared to play well.
"For now, though, I'll be focusing on trying to play for Farrer's first 13 and just doing my best."