Two of the Gold Training under-20s squad, Shane Wright and Josh Fauid, have certainly had their confidence lifted after spending last weekend among Queensland’s elite young players in the Queensland Institute of Sport’s under-20s Emerging Maroons camp in Brisbane.
Fauid, an 18-year-old halfback who has joined the Titans from Norths Devils in Brisbane where he graduated to the Intrust Super Cup last season, will have the task of trying to step into the shoes of Brayden Torpy in the halves.
Wright, who has grown in leaps and bounds since being added to the Titans’ off-season NRL training squad, will be one of Ben Woolf’s leaders after overcoming a 2014 season written off with injury and gradually regaining his confidence and form in 2015.
The three young Titans walked into the four-day camp last Thursday evening, along with our high performance unit member Kobe Tarora who is in the Queensland under-18s squad, and were greeted by iconic Maroons figure Darren Locker, hanging off his every word at an address that night.
They then mixed with the state’s young elite to do skills sessions, goal setting and gaining an understanding of the ‘Maroon’ culture before finishing off with an opposed session between the under-20s and under-18s squads.
“I look up to Darren Lockyer so much and just a privilege to be in his presence, and I took a lot of his talk,” said Josh.
Added Wright: “Darren Lockyer coming in was enormous. He spoke about having pride in playing for Queensland and how it is all about hard work, and how important doing extra training and paying extra attention to the little telling things can make a difference in your career.
“And he gave examples of how that changed his career at some difficult times.
“I learned so much from the few days in camp and it’s been enormous for my confidence to train with the Titans NRL squad as well.”
Wright’s debut season in the Titans’ NYC side was cruelled by a broken and dislocated ankle in a trial game in 2014, which mean it was last season before he had the chance to prove himself.
He admits it was a gradual process getting his confidence and momentum, even though he played all but one match.
“Last year I felt it took a while to get back to where I was,” he said. “Getting through all games was a relief really, and I worked hard in pre-season and it’s all building nicely. It’s up to me from here.”
The Perth-born back-rower was surprised when he received the call-up to train alongside fellow NYC players Jed Cartwright, Greg Leleisiaou, Brian Kelly and newcomers Morgan Boyle and Kurt Bernard during the pre-season. He was more surprised to get the invitation to the QAS camp but now wants to ensure it all counts for something when the season begins.
To one day wear the Maroons jersey, whether in this year’s Origin under-20s match against the Blues, or the ‘real thing’ down the track, would be the ultimate.
"It would be a dream come true," Wright said. "It's one thing I've always wanted to do, represent Queensland, and hopefully this is the year to do it.
"I was in a QAS camp when they had the 14s and 15s one but I've never actually cracked a Queensland team before.
"It's a pretty good feeling to get noticed and picked in that and hopefully I can carry on and eventually get picked in that 20s Origin team this year."
Wright moved to Airlie Beach in the Whitsundays at the age of seven. He was signed by Manly as a 14-year-old before finishing his schooling at Palm Beach Currumbin on the Gold Coast.
Fauid wore the Queensland jersey at under-18 level last season and scored a crucial try at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in the curtain-raIser before game two.
He’d love to repeat the experience in the under-20s this season or next but knows he has a lot of hard work to get through first.
“It’s a privilege to be here, just like everyone else you want to be part of Queensland’s great history,” he said.
“To score that try last year was a memory I’ll never forget and I hope I can get another opportunity in the 20s Origin side too.”