A pathway to the professional game may not have opened up as Jordan Hore once planned but the talented teenager insists his love for the beautiful game still burns as brightly as ever.
Hore was a highly-rated junior bursting through at Murray United in 2019 and his form attracted the attention of A-League scouts, with Melbourne Victory inviting him down for trials.
But when a lack of players prompted Murray to pull the pin on its NPL3 licence, the vacuum created at senior level left Hore, among others. in a quandary.
The midfielder insisted Murray's demise didn't automatically quash his dream of turning pro but Hore took a pragmatic approach.
"I had a couple of months when I thought 'do I really want to keep playing, do I want to focus on school and set up my life for the next couple of years or keep pushing?'" he said.
"There were a couple of weeks when I thought I might not play at all.
"I had the chance to play NPL at GV Suns (in Shepparton) but it's a lot of travel and I made the decision that it's too much for me and not where I want to be right now. I've got other things going on.
"I was there for a couple of months, doing pre-season training, but it's two hours there and back every Tuesday and Thursday and then Saturday or Sunday afternoon. You're on the road for at least 12 hours a week so it makes it very difficult."
Hore, now a key member of the Wangaratta side aiming to defend its league and cup titles in AWFA, said the time he spent with Murray unquestionably accelerated his development.
"I didn't have any idea what the NPL was," he admitted. "My initial thought was 'wow, this is expensive, $1500 for a 13-year-old kid to play' but it was fun.
"You're surrounded by people who weren't there just to have a kick, you wanted to get better as a player.
"Ultimately, the dream was to go pro and make a living out of it. That was the aim.
"At the time, my whole mindset was 'soccer is my life.'
"Some weekends, we had Saturday and Sunday games so you'd leave on Friday, stay down there, come back late Sunday night and go to school on Monday. It was big but the whole mindset of everyone at the club was 'this is it.'
"I was excited to get a senior season under my belt so it was sad that it didn't end up going ahead."
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But with Wangaratta sitting top after nine rounds, Hore's got every chance of ending this season with some silverware.
"I'm doing a lot better than I thought I would," he said. "But I still think I've got a couple of levels to go.
"We always had our eyes set on the championship this season. We only had one pre-season game together, which was hard, but now we're into a groove."
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