JOEY Schirripa believes playing in the Football Wagga competition as a teenager against grown men helped him achieve his A-League ambitions.
Now his career has gone full circle.
While the 36-year-old returned from two years out with a knee injury in Hanwood's 8-0 rout of South Wagga last week, his main goal is to return the favour to the club's crop of youngsters.
Schirripa tore his left anterior cruciate ligament in a trial game in 2016, just after playing a year of Aussie Rules for the Griffith Swans, before resurfacing in Hanwood's return to the Wagga competition after a 19 year absence.
While some are concerned Hanwood could dominate the league, Schirripa doesn't believe it will be plain sailing for the Grifftith heavyweights.
The former Newcastle Jets and Sydney FC player insists the move is the right one to help juniors chase their dreams.
"Everyone's going to have an opinion, some positive and some negative, but at the end of the day the Hanwood committee is doing what's best for the football club, and the majority of our juniors," Schirripa said.
"We've got over 200 juniors on the books and are by far the biggest club in town, it's fantastic our juniors can look toward a serious senior competition as they work through the ranks.
"I played in the Wagga comp when I was 14 or 15 against senior guys old enough to be my old man. I'm now playing that role and we've got some real lively 15 or 16 year olds in our fold."
Schirripa admits he feared his time in A-grade may be over after hurting his knee. But after playing a no.10 role against South Wagga, he views mentorship as his biggest objective.
"I've been close with Anthony (Agresta, Hanwood coach) for a long time, we've played football together since I was seven or eight and he floated the idea of getting back into coaching again," Schirripa said.
"A reason why I put my hand up to help Anthony is it's a good transition period for Hanwood and there's some good little footballers coming through and they can do my leg work.
"What we're excited about with Wagga is it's a ten team comp, it's a real Riverina league which we've always wanted to be a part of.
On the weekend we found it fairly comfortable but we know that's not the case every week.
"I'm in that different phase now which I'm really enjoying. The best thing is we've got no idea what the other team is going to bring each week, there's that uncertainty when the lads get on the bus and we love that."
Hanwood hosts Young Lions in their first home game of the season on Sunday.
Round two fixtures
Lake Albert v South Wagga at Rawlings Park 1, 7pm; Henwood Park v Wagga United at Rawlings Park 5, 7pm
Hanwood v Young Lions at Hanwood, 3pm; Cootamundra v Leeton United at O'Connor Park, 3pm; Tolland v Tumut at Rawlings Park 2, 3pm