Rookie Pirates prop Michael Purtle says the 2021 season far exceeded his expectations and he "loved every minute" of it.
Making the jump from schoolboy rugby, the newly-turned 19-year old said coming into the season he was happy enough to get some time in second grade.
"When I came I'd played third grade at school; I was honestly going to be pretty chuffed if I got five minutes in second grade," Purtle said.
He got much more than that.
After coming off the bench in second grade in the opening round, he worked his way into the starting side for their second game. Two games later he found himself making his run on debut for first grade.
From there he didn't look back, enjoying regular minutes and becoming a key cog in what was one of the most formidable scrums in the competition.
In June, he also made his senior zone debut and on the back of his performances for the Kookaburras was selected in the NSW Country Colts squad.
"I was really excited for that," Purtle said.
"I felt very privileged."
Sadly he didn't get to don the famed Country gold.
They were scheduled to play Queensland Country on the Gold Coast on July 4. But by then Delta had wormed it's way in.
He said there is some talk about early next year a game against maybe the Waratahs academy.
Reflecting on the season, Purtle spoke of his gratitude to Mick Squires for giving him the opportunity, both with the Kookaburras and Pirates (Squires coached both), and the club (Pirates) as a whole for the support they have shown him both on and off the field.
They donated him some money to help out with his Cockatoos commitments.
He also spoke of the privilege it was to play with the likes of Conrad Starr, Bart Leach, Andrew Moodie and Andrew Wynne and what a great influence they and the other senior players have been for him.
"It's a massive change from schoolboy footy to come back and play bush footy," he said.
Particularly first grade, where a lot of the players are often bigger and seasoned senior footballers.
"[But] I loved every minute of it," Purtle added.
And he "learnt a lot", adding that he was lucky to have guys like Leach and Andrew Collins, who have been "very good scrummages for Pirates" for a number of years, to learn off.
The only negative to the season was the COVID-enforced premature end.
"I think it's a real shame we didn't get to play any finals football," Purtle said.
He felt like they were "just starting to peak at the right time".
He might get his chance next year. In welcome news for Pirates supporters, he will be "staying around" around for a bit longer after starting full-time as a stock and station agent with his family's Manilla-based business - Purtle Plevey Agencies.
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