For a player who suffered from lack of confidence, and even focus, only two seasons earlier and had only played outside an age competition just three times before he became an NRL player, Kane Elgey’s progress in 2015 was outstanding.
As an 84kg lightly-framed halfback, who constantly had big back-rowers running at him and a naturally instinctive attacking player that is quiet and reserved away from the field, there was a great deal of adapting to do after he was promoted to the team, that had lost all three opening games, in round four clash with the Sharks.
By season’s end he had been nominated for the Dally M rookie of the year award and played for the Australian Prime Minister’s XIII. With the team’s most controlling playmaker Aidan Sezer injured he came of age after having to stand up as the dominant play-caller after returning from a second injury spell under-done.
Few know that Elgey, after a disappointing under-20s season or the Titans in 2013, was thinking of heading back to the Tugun Hawks to play in the local A-grade competition.
However, incoming under-20s coach Ben Woolf instilled confidence in his former Australian Schoolboys halfback and made him co-captain. Elgey ended the 2014 season as the NRL’s under-20s player of the year and with a one-year deal in the NRL squad to prove his worth.
He played 16 games in first grade after beginning the season with three appearances for Tweed Heads Seagulls in the Intrust Super Cup. From that debut at Cronulla, he never looked out of place although he had to confront the physical demands of defending in the front line and being constantly targeted, and being the on-field boss of established players around him.
But his natural instincts, ability to find space for others at the defensive line and the directness of his attack gave the team a new dimension.
Elgey tied with Daniel Mortimer with try-assists with 10 and was second to Sezer in line-break assists, with 12.
If there was a defining performance it was in round 24 at Cbus Super Stadium against the Raiders. Sezer was injured the week before and sidelined for the season and Greg Bird, chosen as Sezer’s replacement at five-eighth, was injured kicking off and replaced three minutes later.
Elgey had only been passed fit to play the day before but took control for his most influential performance, scoring a try and having a prominent hand in three others. He also put in a crucial 40-20 kick and took over the goalkicking duties in the 28-12 victory.
A week later he coolly landed a goal late in the match to give the Titans a third straight home victory against finals-bound St George Illawarra.
He admitted until then he had struggled to regain his earlier form after being sidelined with an ankle injury and later a hip injury.
“I couldn’t get back into the groove I had in the first 10 games,” he said. “It was probably a turning point and I just wanted to finish strongly and build for next season.”
Sezer, who is departing for Canberra, was a valuable mentor for his young halves partner.
“He’s always been a good mentor for me since I made my debut,” Elgey said. “A key message from him [on the eve of the Raiders clash] was composure - that’s his strength and something I lacked as a young player. That is something I have to work on.
“It was hard without ‘Seze’, and Morts and I had to take over the team and it was good for me. I have to be more authoritative on the field.
“I am a confidence player, the more games I play the better I will get better and as the confidence builds so will my leadership I hope.”
Elgey is determined to have a good pre-season and build up weight and strength for 2016 with a sense of what is required to be a consistent performer and team on-field organiser in the NRL, and with new rivals for positions in Ashley Taylor and Tyrone Roberts.
“I want to put in a strong pre-season and putting on some weight and getting stronger; I want to get my defence stronger and build from that,” he said.
“Physically it has been a challenge, but I feel I have adapted to it now.
“I got my chance in round four after three ‘Q Cup’ games against men and I had to rise to the challenge quickly. The 16 games this season was a real learning curve for me but I feel confident I belong in the NRL now.”
KANE ELGEY’s 2015 SEASON
Avg. mins: 75
Avg. runs per game: 6.3
Avg. metres per game: 44
Avg. tackles: 12
Line breaks: 4
Try assists: 10
Line-break assists: 12