This is a photo that tells quite a story for the Aquis Gold Coast Titans.
We can confirm that 19-year-old outside back from South Sydney, John Olive, has been signed until the end of 2018. The rangy youngster arrived on Monday and has settled in quickly.
Last July, he wore the NSW jersey in the under-20s State of Origin team that beat Queensland 32-16 at Suncorp Stadium as a curtain-raiser to the deciding third senior Origin cash.
He played left centre. Outside of him Brian Kelly, also 19, scored four tries, two from smart work by halves inside, another couple through brilliant footwork that beat his opposing number.
Olive showed impressive speed to set up another for halfback Jackson Hastings, and worried the defence every time he saw a little space.
On the Queensland team that night were Kelly’s Titans under-20 teammates Oshea Tuiasau and Karl Lawton, and Brisbane Broncos young gun - Junior Kangaroos halfback and eventual Holden Cup player of the year - Ash Taylor.
Now, they are all Gold Coast Titans players – representing the future of the club.
While focus by many has been around the senior players brought to the club in Nathan Friend, David Shillington, Zeb Taia and Chris McQueen, these five are rated among the pick of emerging players in the game – and they will all wear the blue and gold this year.
Then there are Nene Macdonald and Kierran Moseley, Queensland players in the under-20s Origin cash of the season before (Olive was in the Australian Schoolboys team).
Go back one year further and Nathan Davis, who makes his NRL debut this Sunday for the Titans against the Knights, was in the Australian Schoolboys side that included Sione Mata’utia, Jackson Hastings and Jayden Nikorima.
Then we turn to 2016 and Shane Wright, who in January attended the Queensland QAS Emerging Origin camp, with our debuting under-20s halfback Josh Fauid, which puts them both in the mix for this year’s Origin under-20s selection.
Of course Kane Elgey, 2014 Holden Cup player of the year, had trod the path already with his 16-game rookie season in 2015 which culminated in his selection in the Australian Prime Minister’s XIII side.
Tyronne Roberts-Davis, cousin of James and Tyrone Roberts, was an Australian Schoolboys representative in 2015 and still 18. He’s another to watch after scoring five tries in five appearances in the Holden Cup last year.
So it provides a healthy snapshot of our youth and the current crop which many who have been around the club since 2007 suggest may prove the best ever, or certainly since the first couple of seasons threw up Ryan James, Kevin Gordon, David Mead, Ben Ridge and others.
Brian Kelly, 19, John Olive, 19, the raw wild card Greg Leleisiuao, 18, Shane Wright, 19, Ash Taylor, 20, Karl Lawton, 20, Oshea Tuiasau, 20, Nathan Davis, 20, Kierran Moseley, 21 Nene Macdonald, 21 and Elgey 22. Seven backs, two forwards and utility man Lawton who is comfortable at five-eighth and hooker.
Then add Kurt Bernard, 20 (from Melbourne Storm), and Morgan Boyle, 19 (from Canberra Raiders) as established NYC players recruited from other clubs, and there is a batch of young players with potential big futures within our ranks that fans should be very excited about.
Olive’s signing this week, fast-tracking his arrival after already being signed for 2017-18, will not be the last step in this youth policy with head coach Neil Henry still on the look-out for another outside back or forward with room still to move within the salary cap.
“Signing John Olive and making it five players from last year’s under-20s match in our ranks is exciting for the club and shows our youth policy,” Henry said.
“We’d identified John a while back and were fortunate to secure him for 2017-18 but Souths being prepared to release him early is a bonus for us. He’s fast and athletic and can play centre or wing where were in need of more depth.
“We have recruited experience in the forwards and players who have good ethic and professional attitudes. And, at the other end of the scale, to bring some of these young players into our NRL squad and an environment where can learn from the senior players, augurs well for the future.”
Indeed it does.
PICTURED FROM LEFT: Brian Kelly, Karl Lawton, John Olive, Oshae Tuiasau and Ash Taylor.