He has played every minute, of every game, yet he is only 16 years old.
Ballarat City’s Alex Baker is a shining light in what has been a difficult National Premier League two west season for the club.
The defender has been involved in the Ballarat City system throughout his junior ranks.
After playing beyond his years in the under-20s last season, he has not only advanced to the seniors this year, but become an integral part of the City line-up.
Baker has never made a state team, but he puts his impressive rise to the NPL2 level down to working hard and seizing the opportunity when it presented itself.
“It doesn’t matter that I didn’t make those teams, all that matters is the future,” Baker said.
“The right opportunity came at the right time and I kept grinding away.
“I’ve waited for that opportunity and I feel like I’ve taken it with both hands right now.”
Baker feels he has made big steps in his game given the exposure to the club’s top level and he has soaked up as much information as he can, leaning on the likes of fellow defender Tristan Romein and club leader Shuan Romein.
“There’s a lot of role models and leaders within the team.
“I’ve learnt a lot. The whole year I’ve just been learning the whole time.
“I’ve soaked up so much knowledge this year.
“I feel like I’ve improved a lot throughout the season.
“It’s a bit different because it’s not based on development (like the under-20s), it’s based on winning and getting the three points on game day.”
Ballarat City sits ninth, second last, with three wins and has lost its last four matches – its second slump to that extent this season.
Baker said it was important the group stuck to its process and said there was no other option than to keep pushing in order to avoid relegation.
“We just need to keep going.
“We had one (a slump) mid-season and we had a great run of form after that. It’s a test for the whole group, to keep pushing, the reality is we’re down near the bottom and we can’t afford to lose many more games, otherwise we’ll be getting relegated, so we’ve just got to keep pushing.”
Coach Danny Gnjidic sung the praises of Baker, a player that the coaching staff can continually rely on, and while he is still developing, his application to his soccer was outstanding.
“We earmarked him as a senior squad member this year, but we didn’t anticipate he’d play this much,” Gnjidic said.
“He’s a quiet kid, but he goes about his business in the most professional and appropriate manner.”