WHEN Kane Elgey becomes the 96th player to wear the Titans colours in the NRL today, he will do it with touching support and respect from Gold Coast locals and families, and a special thought for his father Ron who passed away in 2011 after battling leukaemia.
Ron died the year the 21-year-old former Palm Beach Currumbin student was chosen in the Australian Schoolboys side to tour England and France, and his mother Donna has been a wonderful supporter of Kane since. It will be a special memory for her to be at Remondis Stadium to watch her son run onto the field.
It is a tribute to Kane how he has conducted himself since his father's death in his 40s and there has been so many wonderful messages posted on social media and given directly to the Elgey family this week, a credit to the humble local boy who at times has lacked confidence and doubted his ability.
He has witnessed a significant turnaround in his career since coming off a disappointing 2013 season in under-20s to be given to co-captaincy in Holden Cup last year, then make the NYC team of the season, then win the NYC player of the year award, and pick up an NRL contract just as he’d gone into full-time work as a swimming pool leak-repairer wondering what lie ahead in rugby league.
Kane joins Ryan Simpkins, another local junior (who like Kane played for Tugun Seahawks), who took a much longer route his first Titans NRL jersey a fortnight earlier – via three years at Penrith that brought him 27 NRL appearances and a NSW Cup premiership and reserve grade player of the year award.
But both these boys provided a link back to the first ever ARL/NRL side to represent the Gold Coast, as the Giants, in 1988.
Ryan’s father Robert, a touch tackling back-rower, was in the inaugural Giants side after playing six seasons with the Rabbitohs and Roosters, while Geoff Bagnall, who coached Elgey for a season at PBC where he teaches and has watched his progress closely, was the halfback in that initial ’88 season.
THE influence of that ’88 Giants side on the Titans – and rugby league generally in the area – goes deeper.
Of those who played first grade in that year out of Seagulls Stadium Michael Searle was the driving force behind the Titans admission to the NRL and was managing director for the first eight seasons; Peter Smith, a prop in the class of ’88, has been the under-20s manager for a couple of seasons and is now the club’s welfare manager; Chris Close, of Queensland Origin player and manager fame, worked for the Titans in marketing and player development; Giants’ first captain Billy Johnstone was the first strength and conditioning coach at the Titans, Mark Gee worked for the club in recruitment development and Greg Whitbread’s son Jai is in our high performance squad. Then we have Troy McCarthy coached Tweed Heads Seagulls in the Queensland Cup and Mark Ross has coached locally and has been influential at Currumbin Vikings surf club.
SATURDAY’s match against the Sharks will be the Titans’ 200th in the NRL. The record from the first 199 is 88 victories and 111 loses, no draws.
While there are no inaugural players from day one still at the club with Luke Bailey and Mark Minichiello moving on at the end of last season, Luke O’Dwyer comes the closest to being the player with the longest service. After finishing his NRL career at the end of 2013, he has been on the marketing team since.
General manager of football Scott Clark has been on the staff since the start, while backroom men Darryl Madge, Cleve Brown, Tom ‘Lemonade’ Feehan have been around the team since the beginning. Current staffers who were also there in year one on the admin side are Ian Buchanan, Chris Knell, Renee Cohen, Jen Cross and Robin Hill. Strength and conditioning coach Dan Ferris came in year two.
WHILE we’re on numbers …
What about the plethora of beards in the NRL lately, and particularly at the Titans.
When Anthony Don reported for training this week with his beard gone and hair cropped short, it prompted me to count – before others clean up their chins - how many Titans who have sported beards since the start of the trials – and more than just a three-to-five day growth.
I came up with: Kevin Gordon, Anthony Don, Aidan Sezer, Daniel Mortimer (a goatee briefly), Dave Taylor (he returned clean shaven last round), Eddy Pettybourne, Kierran Moseley (goatee), Luke Douglas, Ryan James, Nate Myles and Mark Ioane. That’s 11, surely a club record.
And then we can add squad members who have been playing in the Intrust Super Cup of been sidelined who currently sport whiskers in Caleb Binge, Christian Hazard, Davin Crampton, Jai Ingram, Kalifa Faifai Loa and Damian Sironen.
TITANS under-20s coach Ben Woolf will be looking for improvement in one area – goalkicking. While Aidan Sezer has kicked at an 89 percent success rate in the NRL, the NYC have used four kickers for a combined eight goals from 18, or 44 per cent success. The four used have been Brayden Torpy, Delayne Ashby, Deacon Fletcher and Shaun Hudson.
WHICH Titans player recently got his motorbike licence and has been turning up to training on a beast bigger than a scooter but much less substantial than a Harley his coach likes to get on the road on? I can’t reveal his identity but he’s part of the bearded brigade.
THIS WEEK’S TRIVIA: Who has the best goalkicking percentage of all the regular long-term kickers (100 goals or more) since the NRL was established in 1998?
Last week’s answer: The three players in last weekend’s Knights-Titans to have played in grand finals were Daniel Mortimer, Beau Scott and Jeremy Smith.