Consistency is Don's biggest goal
Anthony Don was a late bloomer as an NRL player but his two-try effort to start the 2016 season shows that he is determined to make up for lost time.
The former Grafton Ghost was 25 when he debuted in round 6, 2013, after being called up from Burleigh Bears, and the following season was given a two-year contract that takes him to the end of this season.
His tally of 30 tries in his 45 NRL appearances – and 14 in his last 17 games - gives him the best strike-rate of any of the regular Titans. It puts him ninth on the NRL try-scoring strike-rate list (minumum 20 games) behind Semi Radradra who has the incredible record of 48 tries in 50 games ahead of Curtis Rona (30 from 33).
But that is just coincidental to Don’s major goal in 2016 – to prove consistent enough to play every match.
He achieved his first goal, of being in the round one side for the first time since he joined the club. In 2014 he played second fiddle to David Mead and Kevin Gordon for the first four rounds before getting his chance and last season it was round two, with Gordon preferred to open the season against Wests Tigers.
Now he is in a different environment, as a senior incumbent with Kalifa Faifai Loa (Dragons) and Gordon (retired) having departed but with a new generation of John Olive, Brian Kelly, Nathan Davis and Greg Leleisiuao, who can play centre and wing, snapping at his heels.
One thing ‘Boogie’ Don has certainly proven though is that he can find the tryline. Last year he pulled off some tremendous four-pointers - the best was at Leichhardt against the Tigers when he beat five defenders in a 50-metre run.
And he was at it again on Sunday, with an unexpected kick from Daniel Mortimer falling into his arms and the right flanker taking advantage of his good fortune to grubber ahead, regather between three players, and score a sensational try.
Was it good fortune or good planning? A bit of both, according to ‘Boogs’.
“During the week Morts and I spoke about if he gets a quick play the ball he’d look to kick down the short side and I’d chase it, so I was alert to it,” he says.
“But I didn’t anticipate he’d kick it to me; he was supposed to kick it to the corner and hopefully force a line-drop out.
“But it came straight to me and I’d thought I put a grubber in behind and then kick again and force the line-drop, but the ball stood up for me. The fullback held off a bit and I was lucky to get around him.”
Don loves scoring tries, and he can rate with most in the game with his finishing skills and the NRL-familiar swan-dive over the top of the corner posts. But he knows the points come secondary to his consistency in other aspects, including defence, taking the high ball and positional play.
And becoming a winger coach Neil Henry picks every week.
“This year I got the start I wanted in round one, and hopefully I can continue in the side although there is good competition from all positions,” said Don who has covered right and left wing the past two seasons and has had to several centre combinations inside.
“It’s about developing combinations at training and from that get confidence and building on that.
“Going into this season my first goal was get my shoulder back to how it was, and then build from that and play round one, and be a consistent first grader for the rest of the season.
“The next thing is to play good footy week in and week out and retain my position.
“There is some good young talent coming through the ranks so I can never take my position for granted and have to be consistent in how I play during the 80 minutes - and from one week to the next.”