The journey of a professional rugby league player often takes sudden, unexpected turns.
For Titans newcomers Chad Redman and Nene Macdonald, that path has led them – out of the blue - to the Gold Coast.
In a whirlwind four days which saw both players change states and make their debuts for the Aquis Titans, the transition was made easier by the reunion of a few familiar faces.
For Redman, it’s ironic he had an unexpected reunion with Lachlan Burr at Pizzey Park last Wednesday.
It was the same place, next to Burleigh Bears Leagues Club, five years earlier where they were selected for the Australian Schoolboys to tour England, Wales and France – Macdonald from the Queensland side and Burr from NSW Combined High Schools.
They’d had little contact since the tour during which they were in the starting pack in the team captained by former Titan Paul Carter and with the star graduate undoubtedly David Klemmer, with the big Bulldogs prop who has made an impact for NSW and Australia. The only other NRL regular from the squad is Wests Tigers young gun James Tedesco.
Kane Elgey and Jamal Fogarty were just as surprised to see Nene Macdonald walk into Pizzey Park last week. They too were Australian Schoolboys teammates, who toured New Zealand in 2011. Among their teammates were Klemmer, Pat Mata’utia, Lloyd Perrett, Curtis Sironen and Jake Trbojevic who have made their marks in the NRL.
Elgey and Macdonald did meet up once in between, when named in the Holden Cup team of the year at a function in Sydney last August, but little did they expect they would become teammates less than a year later.
Nor did Kierran Moseley, who went to school with Macdonald in Townsville but, like Macdonald and Redman, was contracted to another club in 2015 however was able to gain a release to forge a future with the Titans.
Rugby league can provide some fascinating twists and turns.
“I haven’t seen Chad much since our schoolboys tour,” Burr said of Redman after a warm welcoming handshake last week. “I don’t think I ever played against him in NSW Cup over the past couple of years.
“We toured England, France and Wales together and Chad because was our starting hooker and played every game over there I think. He’s a tough, smart hooker who picks his runs really well and is a good defender.”
Burr said it was surprising to see so few guys from the 2010 schoolboys side kick on and establish themselves in the NRL, but under-18 football is a long way from the NRL.
“Making the Australian side puts you in good stead and is a great experience, it’s a good starting point” Burr said. “But you just have to look at our (2010) side and see that nothing is guaranteed in the NRL. Paul Carter was our captain, he was really good on that tour. I remember Tautau Moga being good out wide. Tedesco only played a couple of games while we were over there, and I think it was as a winger on tour, but he’s kicked on to have a really good career.”
For Redman, it hasn’t been a whirlwind week, with his fiancée Shelly and children, daughter Harlow and son Cohen, joining him four days after his sudden move last Wednesday morning.
“It all happened pretty fast, I found out Monday about the interest from the Titans then next thing I know I was up here training with the boys Wednesday, but all the boys have made me feel welcome so I’m grateful for that,” Redman said.
“The game [against the Warriors] felt like my debut all over again, but once I adjusted to the speed I kicked into gear a bit. It’s just good to be out there and get that first game out of the way.”
Redman admitted to forgetting former teammate Burr was at the Titans, but said it was a welcome surprise.
“I totally forget he was up here until someone told me, but it was good to see a familiar face,” he said. “I played against him when he was at the Bulldogs but other than that I hadn’t really seen him since our Schoolboys side. He’s always been a big bloke, but he’s gotten even bigger now, it’s good to play with him again.”
Macdonald also came across a familiar face in David Mead who he represented Papua New Guinea with in the 2013 World Cup in England. Daniel Mortimer also crossed paths with the big winger at the Roosters.
Despite the familiarity of a few faces, Macdonald said everyone at the club had been welcoming since he arrived.
“I signed up Tuesday and was on a flight Tuesday night and started training Wednesday, it all happened pretty quickly,” he said. “The Titans have been really good and given me an opportunity, I just have to go out and show them what I’ve got.
“I guess it has been a bit easier as I went to school with Kierran, played Schoolboys with Elgey, and PNG with Meady. I knew Morts (Daniel Mortimer) from the Roosters, but once I got up here all the boys were really good and accepting.”
Elgey remembers Macdonald this way: “A massive winger-centre who just jumped over people.”
“We came across each other when we both made the under-20s team of the year last season, but I hadn’t seen him for a while before that,” Elgey said.
“We both toured New Zealand together with the Australian Schoolboys and he was in our Mal Meninga under-18s squad as well so I’ve played with Nene quite a bit before. It’s great to have him at the Titans.”