Spending his formative years in one of the most isolated parts of the country, Billy Check had limited access to football resources.
Growing up on Stewart Island meant no regular trainings for the young footballer and an often-treacherous ferry ride across the Foveaux Strait every weekend for games.
But that hasn’t stopped the young footballer making a name for himself in the game, having made his Mainland Premier League debut last month, at just 15-year-old.
Billy started for Suburbs during its season opener against Western United.
The side drew 0-0 but Billy says it was a great result to help keep a clean sheet in his first league outing.
“It was definitely a step up in terms of the physicality and the speed of the game, but I thought I had some good touches.”
He says he did feel some pressure with it being his debut and the first game of the season, but the young Nelson College student looked right at home on the pitch.
“It was definitely a very tough physical battle against a strong opposition.”
While it was his toughest match to date, Billy had previously played against men’s sides.
“I did play in the Top of the South division one league last year which has prepared me for this season. In the MPL league, however, there’s a massive step up in terms of how much fitter and faster the players are. Combined with a high level of technical skill it makes for some tough opposition.”
He says he will need to be confident and move the ball quickly but also be prepared to get physical and win the ball back.
“The coaches and players have been very supportive of me in this space.”
The attacking midfielder says he has been lucky enough to benefit from some outstanding tutelage including from the Paul Ifill Academy, Tasman United Academy and Davor Tavich at Nelson College.
He has been a key member of the Nelson representative team over the last couple of years, has represented Mainland at the national age group tournament and took part in the U15 NZSS tour of Malaysia where he was named tournament MVP.
Billy hopes to continue his ascension through the ranks to the national side.
“My ultimate goal is to be a professional footballer, I know this is going to be a tough road but there are a few different pathways that I’m currently looking at.”
He says, for now, he will focus on the year ahead with the Mainland team and ensure he learns as much as possible.
“There might be opportunities to represent New Zealand again in the future, which I’m working hard towards.”