Xavier Pratt is close to reaching his long-held goal of gaining a fulltime professional contract with the Wellington Phoenix.
The talented 19-year-old midfielder is on a one-year semi-pro contract with the Phoenix as part of the club's academy programme and is desperate to make the step up later this year.
The former Otumoetai College, Tauranga City United and WaiBOP youth team player was looking to make an impression as part of the Phoenix Premiers playing matches against Fiji under-23s in Fiji last week.
Pratt says he just loves the day-to-day football life he is leading in Wellington.
"I get to play and train every day. The facilities like the gym are always available to me but the key is playing with and surrounded by high quality players in the whole environment," he said.
"We train with the [senior squad] every now and then if they pull players up to fill positions.
"The top players are always there to help you improve and stuff, and they let you know when you make a mistake. My bad habits have lessened or gone away, rather than some things getting amazingly better."
The philosophy at the Phoenix for the reserve players to be versatile and able to fill more than one set position suits Pratt.
"The formation we play makes us have a fluidity about us so we can all change positions. So attacking midfielders become midfielders, midfielders become defensive midfielders and everyone just rotates around."
Pratt is disappointed he did not make the New Zealand under-20 squad for the recent World Cup held in New Zealand after he missed out to players at his level in the ASB Premiership.
"I was disappointed when I didn't make the squad but I made the wider, wider squad. It was great to watch and some of the players were quality. New Zealand did well though."
For now Pratt is focused on doing whatever he can to convince the Phoenix hierarchy that he deserves a pro contract.
But if that does not happen he has other plans he will pursue.
"I would still like to go to America or even Europe but will see what happens within the next few years at the Phoenix. Hopefully I can stay here and solidify a spot."
Pratt has not forgotten the coaches who have helped him along the pathway he is on today, right from the first time he laced up a pair of boots at Otumoetai Football Club.
"It has all kind of built up to this and the next few steps so hopefully I can reach those last few goals of mine," he said.
-Peter White flew to Fiji courtesy of Fiji Airways.