Payne Haas is congratulated by Jamie McCormack after signing with the Titans.

Confirmation that some of the best young talent from Gold Coast and surrounding areas have been recruited into the Titans’ new pathway program was evident when Payne Haas was today selected in the Australian under-15s merit team.

Payne was one of four players in the Titans development system who played in the final of the tournament, won by Queensland Maroons 34-6 against Queensland Whites, showing what depth of talent there is in the state.

The others were Kees Nicholson and Lorenzo Leapai (Maroon) and Luke Mastroianni (White).

The Titans are determined to keep as many Gold Coast juniors as they can on the Coast and give them an NRL opportunity in the face of ongoing interest in the area’s best players by other NRL clubs.

Also among those who are benefitting from elite coaching and personal development as part of the new six-stage program are three members of the Queensland under-16 side that played the curtain-raiser to State of Origin I at Suncorp Stadium, a member of the NSW under-16s side, four from the under-15 Queensland Schoolboys squad, two from the under-18 Queensland Schoolboys and one from the NSW Combined Catholic Colleges under-15 team.

Heading the list is Haas, a Nerang junior attending Keebra Park high who was approached by several NRL clubs after being the stand-out player of the Queensland under-15s carnival recently.

The massively built 15-year-old has elected to stay in the Titans system, in a real coup for the club.

Among other promising players in the program include recent representative selections such as Queensland under-16s Kobe Tararo (Logan), Vito Sula-Siaosi  (Runaway Bay), Ethan Paikea (Mudgeeraba); NSW under-16s representative Jai Whitbread (Tweed Heads); under-15 schoolboys Haas, Kees Nicholson (Keebra Park), Luke Mastroianni (Runaway Bay, Coombahah HS) and Lorenzo Leapai (Logan); NSW Combined Catholic Colleges rep Max Bryant (Cudgen) and recently selected Queensland under-18 schools selections Jordan Scott (Runaway Bay, Keebra Park) and Braydon McMahon (Southport, Keebra Park) who were both part of the Keebra Park side that won last year’s GIO Schoolboys Cup.

“We have refined out structures and processes to focus on quality of coaching and development rather than quantity with small elite groups of players from the northern end of the coast, the southern end and a third in northern NSW,” said Titans elite player development unit manager Jamie McCormack.

“It’s all about focusing on smaller groups of maximum 20 players and offering the highest quality coaching with a lot of one of one work, all monitored directly by our coaching and development people at the Titans.

“What we want to achieve is that the best players from Grafton through to the top of the Gold Coast and the Logan area see that the Titans can offer as good a development pathway to the NRL than any other club and there is no need to leave to achieve their dreams.

“It’s still a big target area for other NRL clubs, some of who have big money to splash around, but our aim is to not lose anyone for reasons to do with football and personal development.”

The program involves six stages of development from assisting junior league representative sides with athletic and skills testing and education, to the Titans junior development squads for 13-14 year olds, attendance at an annual under-14s camp; the junior academy for 15-16 year olds, progress to the senior academy for 17-18 year olds; then to the Titans under-20s squad.

The squads in each of the three areas have several sessions a year where focus is on strength and conditioning, skills and also diet and lifestyle.

“It’s about a more personal relationship and attachment with the players and their families and giving the young players every assistance and opportunity to progress in rugby league, hopefully with the Titans,” McCormack said.

“We’ve had a tremendous response while still in our early stages and I think the quality of players who are in the system and committed themselves to the club is vindication that we are on the right path.”