KALIN EADE was not particularly popular with the girls when he moved to country NSW as a young boy and swept the floor in the year 3 dancing competitions.
''I came from the Gold Coast and went in my first eisteddfod when I first got here and I didn't really know anyone,'' Kalin, 16, said. ''Winning most of the sections, the girls got a bit cranky about it. And in year 3 it's like the world has ended if something bad goes wrong, so I didn't have many friends after that.''
Nine years later, Kalin is captain of the local under-16s rugby league team, the Gunnedah Bulldogs, and a rare NSW veteran of the Broncos training camp, showing enough potential to play one day professionally.
But, not long ago, the year 11 student came to a decision: he wanted to be a ballerino.
''They're so different - football to dancing. Your body shape's different and I think it's to the point where I've got to choose either one. It could be life-changing,'' he said.
As the only boy in his advanced dancing class in the NSW north-west and twice a choreographer in the New England Dance Festival competition, Kalin still has to contend with the bullies on the football field.
Recently, a group of boys on the other team ripped his head gear off during a game.
''I scored and they're like … 'He's a dancer, he's a dancer. Smash him,''' Kalin said.
But the boy from the bush, who hopes to be accepted by the Australian Ballet, is not easily rattled. ''From an early age, he never liked to lose,'' his mother, Linda Gallagher, said. ''He was very competitive, but always did his very best, so whatever he competed in, he just did it to the best of his ability. [He's] always liked music and art and things like that as well as your footy,'' she said.
While football runs in Kalin's blood - his uncle played for Penrith and his father played rugby union - there is no family precedent for dancing or much creativity at all, his mother said.
She would prefer he chose a career with a steady income, but said he must do what he loves.
''He played his football for mateship, really, and then just became very good at that and represented your school, your region, your state,'' she said. ''But his heart's not in it and he wants to pursue dance.''
Kalin, whose room is filled with football and swimming trophies on a small property outside Gunnedah, where a lamb bleats outside his window, said ballet appeals to his inner perfectionist.
''Ballet's black and white. You do it right or you do it wrong,'' he said. ''With all the other styles, you can interpret it in your own way, but ballet's like, you've just got to be perfect.''