JETT Hopper only turned 19 on Sunday but already has three seasons of senior football under his belt.
The tough small forward made his Wimmera league debut in 2021 and spent two years fine-tuning his craft at home club Horsham.
He then opted for a sea-change, arriving at Port Fairy and settling in at Gardens Oval for the 2023 Hampden league season.
Hopper was among a committed group of players at the Seagulls' opening night of pre-season training on Wednesday, November 15.
They were put through a gruelling time-trial and then did a series of ball drills at Gardens Oval.
The former GWV Rebels-listed teenager said he was eager to spend six months preparing for next season after only arriving in the seaside town a month before his debut.
"I get a full pre-season this year. It will be good to get a bit fitter hopefully," Hopper said.
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The move has proven a winner for Hopper who is working as a trainee for Warrnambool-based Duggan Civil.
"I spoke to (coach) Dustin (McCorkell) and he asked me to come down and I was thinking about getting out of Horsham and changing it up," he said.
"I thought 'may as well.'
"It was a bit drier in Horsham, a bit hotter. It's good down here by the beach.
"Mum and Dad are down nearly every week - it's an excuse to come to the beach."
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The Hopper name is synonymous with sport in the Wimmera, in particular Homers Cricket Club.
His dad Ash, uncles Chris and Simon and grandfather Dave are entrenched in Homers' folklore.
"Grandpa's still playing cricket in the over 70s - he's bloody mad," he said.
"Dad and Chris are done and Simon is semi-retired but he actually made 200 last week in the B grade - just coming out of retirement, smacking them around."
As for Hopper, football is his sporting priority.
He has filled in for Port Fairy's seconds in the Warrnambool and District Cricket Association twice this summer but is more than happy to help out as "a home-game specialist".
"I stopped a year ago. I did my knee in footy and had the full year off cricket and kind of enjoyed it," Hopper said.
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Hopper spent three years - from under 16s to under 18s - in the Coates Talent League.
Those experiences against some of Australia's best young footballers are helping him now.
"I learned heaps, there was good coaches everywhere and I was surrounded by good players so it makes you play good footy," Hopper said.
"It's very serious. I don't take anything (too) serious but I enjoyed it though."
Now he's learning from one of the Hampden league's all-time greats - goal-kicking record-holder Jason Rowan.
"Hopefully I'll play up forward again as a high forward hitting up the deeper forwards," Hopper said.
Port Fairy was one of the league's most improved teams in 2023 and is aiming for a finals return next year.
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