Exciting Parramatta prospect Ray Stone has penned a one-year extension with the Eels having shown a promising run of performances in just six games over two seasons.
Stone, who will run out for the Eels against the Broncos on Sunday at Bankwest Stadium, revealed the sacrifices he has made along the way to reach the new deal with the club.
At 17-years-old, Stone would trek a four-hour round trip from Moss Vale to Wests Tigers training in hope of finding a breakthrough into the league, with the then-teenager hitting the training track after the trip before getting back into the car for the drive home, several times a week.
“I was still living at home when I was at Tigers so I was doing a two-hour drive there and a two-hour drive back for every training session. That was a challenging part,” Stone told foxsports.com.au.
Unfortunately for Stone, his dedication to the sport failed to pay off, initially.
“(The Tigers) weren’t interested in me anymore.”
Parramatta were soon to show interest in Stone, with the Eels even offering to cut-out the long drives up and down the highway just to make life a little easier.
“When I signed with Parra I said I’ve definitely got to move up here, I can’t keep doing the drive, it’s killing me,” Stone said.
“They looked after me, they put me into an apartment, and they’ve looked after me ever since.
“It was like I either had to go for it or don’t do it at all. I didn’t want to put one foot in and do it half-hearted.
“It’s obviously paying off now but it was tough at the time.”
Stone represented both the Blues and Kangaroos at a junior level, growing the desire and thirst for a second chance following the Tigers’ rejection.
Stone’s career faced a slow burn as his debut in 2018 was his only feature for the year.
Stone has broken into the side this year, playing five times with a sixth match to come on Sunday afternoon.
Stone revealed he is still making demanding sacrifices to keep his NRL dream alive, with partner Dena and their 14-month-old son Boris still living down the South Coast.
“We’re doing it so we can save up because we want to stop renting, so we’re saving up for a house,” he explains.
“(Boris is) running around and keeping us on our toes. He’s a little terror but he’s a little cutie.”
Stone’s latest deal is guaranteed money for another season, meaning his dream of buying a home for his young family is closer to reality.
But while the contract is a step closer, Stone understands that nothing is guaranteed after the contract ends, as he is enrolled at TAFE to study carpentry along with Eels teammates.
“Even if my career finishes in the next one or two years I’ve got something put in place, something to fall back on even if it’s just an apprenticeship.
“It will be good for us to have a bit of security for the next year, and when we move back in together just to know what we’re doing.
“Work through the next 12 months then we’ll see what we can do after that.”
Stone will run out for his first final on Sunday at Bankwest in the blue and gold, with Dena, Boris and his parents all watching on from the grandstand.
A win on Sunday for Stone and the Eels will add a new chapter to his journey from Moss Vale to NRL success.