The decision to sit out the 2020 season has paid off for Gunnedah FC striker Eli Rankmore.
The 17-year-old is the Northern Inland Premier Division leading goalscorer after five rounds.
Rankmore has 11 goals - including hauls of six and four - in his four games to start his season following 12 months away from the game.
The apprentice boilermaker decided to sit out the 2020 season after he sustained injuries following a motorbike accident at the end of 2019.
He broke his wrist and damaged ligaments in his ankle which saw him miss out on playing the 2019 Tamworth District Football grand final.
Gunnedah FC went on to win both first and reserve grade TDF titles that year.
Rankmore said it was "a bit disappointing" to miss out on the finale but he's looking forward and in 2021, the 17-year-old is fighting fit.
The striker worked hard on his fitness leading into the season and continues to do so which has helped him play a big role for Gunnedah FC.
"We did a bit of pre-season and I got straight back into it and I felt good," Rankmore said of his return to soccer.
"I've been loving it. I couldn't have hoped for a better start to the season. It's been bloody awesome."
Gunnedah FC kicked off the year with three wins before suffering their first defeat to the hands of reigning premier Oxley Vale Attunga on Saturday.
The Gunnedah outfit went down 5-0 but have hung on to second spot on the ladder behind the undefeated OVA.
On the weekend, Rankmore said Mushies were hungrier than Gunnedah FC.
"We did in the first three games - we showed that we really wanted it as a team and as for the weekend, we didn't really want it. They wanted it more," Rankmore said.
Gunnedah FC's next opponent will be fourth-placed Tamworth FC.
They'll host the Tamworth side at the Geoff Morgan Fields on Saturday with first grade set to kick-off at 3pm and reserve grade at 1pm.