It’s been a fortnight to remember for Lower Mountains Rugby League Club product and current Penrith Toyota Cup centre and second rower Tom Eisenhuth.
Less than two years ago Penrith Panthers’ development and recruitment manager Jim Jones praised the Springwood resident for his attitude and work ethic when he was selected for the NSW under-18s team and tipped him to "go through and play NRL for the Panthers one day".
That day came suddenly and unexpectedly in Auckland on August 19 when he was told he would be a starter for the Panthers in their NRL clash against the Warriors due to a regular first grade player falling ill.
Despite showing early nerves the 20-year-old was paid the ultimate compliment by Panthers head coach Ivan Cleary following that game - won by the Panthers 18-16 - who told him he looked at home in front of the big Mt Smart Stadium crowd.
"I was pretty nervous and excited in the first 20 inutes of the game but after that I really settled in," Eisenhuth told the Gazette.
"Before the game Ivan told me there was no pressure on and to treat it like any other game and that helped.
"We were behind at half time but he (Cleary) was still confident we could come back and we did.
"He said after the game it looked like I’d done it [played first grade footy] before.
"The other players made it easier for me to go out there - we [the Panthers’ Toyota Cup squad] often train together [with the first graders] so I know them all very well.
"The next time I get the opportunity to play first grade footy I think I’ll start a lot stronger and have a better performance because I’ll know what to expect."
Eisenhuth said the call-up happened so quickly he had to borrow someone else’s mobile phone to inform his family, who were thrilled.
"It was pretty special as my mum (Kerri) is the secretary of the Lower Mountains Junior Rugby League, my youngest brother Ryan plays for them, my brother Luke plays A Grade for Lower Mountains and Alan plays over at Windsor."
Last weekend Eisenhuth returned to his red hot Panthers Toyota Cup side for their 78-0 shellacking of the Gold Coast Titans at Centrebet Stadium, which elevated Penrith to fourth position on the ladder with one round to go.
He has scored five tries so far this season and said he is happy with his form.
"Last year we missed out on the finals by just two points and I think the team is playing a lot better now.
"It’s been a good year and it looks like we will be playing finals footy. I can’t wait because that will be a first for me."