TWEED Heads’ disappointing 30-4 home loss was overshadowed by Gold Coast co-captain William Zillman’s return from a foot injury.
For the first time since spearheading the Titans’ Round 15 victory against Manly in June, Zillman lined up at fullback for the Seagulls at Piggabeen Sports Complex.
Rumours have swirled about his short and long-term NRL future but the 30-year-old put all that behind him with a solid display alongside fellow Titan Leivaha Pulu.
As Tweed coach Aaron Zimmerle pointed out, the renowned kicking game of Northern Pride winger Khan Ahwang hardly made for a straightforward afternoon for Zillman.
“Khan Ahwang can really kick the footy so he just showed his class in how he defused some of those bombs that were put up,” said Zimmerle, who also praised Pulu’s effort as “very strong”.
He said the veteran of 165 NRL matches had provided a first-hand lesson for the club’s aspiring custodians by making himself “available on almost every play”.
Pulu added to the rousing review of Zillman’s return to the field.
“He brings a calmness to the boys … he’s real humble,” he said. “Everyone likes playing with him.”
Pulu found himself back at Queensland Cup level – missing an NRL game for the first time this year – after Titans coach Neil Henry asked him to work on “the little things”.
“There’s just stuff that I need to improve on so he brought me back to Tweed to get some minutes under my belt,” he said after playing 67 minutes at lock.
“I just tried to come out today and improve on all the little things he told me to work on.”
The 2016 recruit’s stint in Queensland Cup could be short-lived, with Ryan James facing a one-match ban for a high tackle.
“At the end of the day it’s up to King … if he decides to pull me up I’m keen, 100 per cent,” Pulu said.
Aside from the rare chance to see the Titans duo in action, there was very little for the Seagulls faithful to cheer about until rookie winger Jacob Garland’s spectacular 75th-minute try.
Capitalising on some second-phase play, halfback Michael Burgess placed a pinpoint cross-field kick for a sprinting Garland to expertly finish the job in the right corner.
All in all, the scoreboard reflected the way the Pride outclassed Tweed in attack and defence.
Zimmerle said the team are aiming for at least one more win before the season’s end, with road trips to Ipswich and Redcliffe to come.
Burleigh remain second on the ladder after a bye but have more breathing space behind them thanks to Townsville’s defeat of Papua New Guinea.
This article first appeared in Gold Coast Bulletin