It will be a different feeling for Lachlan Burr today, the last in a litter of Bulldogs to make his pathway to the NRL.
It will be his first time playing against his club of five seasons and mates he ran out with in some outstanding Bulldogs under-20s sides.
And a throwback to the preliminary final weekend of 2010 shows just how rich the Dogs’ depth of young talent was then, and that it was perhaps the heyday of under-20s’ supplying NRL talent.
In the Bulldogs side that lost to eventual premiers, the Warriors, that day were Timoteo Lafai, Aidan Sezer, Sam Kasiano and Burr who will play in today’s match. Also in that team were Bulldogs who will be missing today in Josh Jackson (NSW), plus Martin Taupau, Dale Finucane and Paul Carter.
Burr was in year 12 at school still that season and toured with the Australian Schoolboys alongside current NSW forward David Klemmer who played in the Bulldogs under-18s before being elevated to the under-20s side in 2011 that still boasted the above talent.
Yet they were beaten in that final, 23-16 (after leading 10-0 at half-time) by a hot Warriors team that featured Burr’s current Titans teammates Matt Robinson and Mark Ioane.
The following day, James Roberts scored four tries for Souths who knocked out Canberra 64-18 with Adam Reynolds, Josh Mansour, Nathan Peats and Josh Starling his teammates.
“Yeah it was a pretty good era for the under-20s,” reflected Burr, now 23. “Although we ran into the Warriors in 2010 and ’11 and they won it. A lot of players from the Warriors, Bulldogs and Souths went onto the NRL.
“But we had so much young forward depth at Canterbury it made it hard for me to make first grade.
“So, yeah, it was very frustrating because they were great players, they had the positions at Bulldogs and stayed ahead of me. But I’m happy where I am now; the move to the Gold Coast has been good for me.
“I always knew I could play first grade, so when I got the chance to come here I took it. I’m loving it up here; really enjoying my footy but I know I still have a lot more to improve on.
“It will be strange playing against some of those guys today and I know how tough it will be.”
Burr has improved week by week in the Titans side and after just one NRL game for the Bulldogs, in 2013, he has chalked up 10 with the Titans and has made a good first of filling Greg Bird’s No. 13 jersey while the Test back-rower has been suspended.
Sezer, who suffered an ACL injury that saw him miss most of 2011 before he was an astute signing by the Titans in 2012, never lost faith that his mate from their junior days would make it.
“He just needed the opportunity; I always knew he had the ability and attitude,” said Sezer.
“He’s been improving every game and worked hard and it will be a special match for both of us to come up against our junior club.”
Burr has kept in most contact with Klemmer and five-eighth Moses Mbye who he remembers as a dynamic hooker in Burr’s under-20s teams of 2011 and ’12 with a big left-foot step and dummy. Mbye is a year younger and the previous of the litter to debut in the NRL, in round 8 last year.
“I always thought he was a gun hooker but turned into a half and a good all-rounder who can fill in anywhere, proving his value and that he has to be there.”
And facing Kasiano for the first time? “That’ll be interesting eh; he’s always been a giant.”