Hayden Schwass has credited the influence of troubled former Titan Jamie Dowling for putting him on the path that has him in contention to earn a full-time contract with Gold Coast for the 2017 NRL season.
Dowling is currently overseas seeking treatment for ongoing mental health issues to which the NRL has helped to fund, the seriousness of his situation brought to light by a letter from his mother to esteemed rugby league journalist Roy Masters.
Despite his personal issues, Dowling is one of the most respected and admired figures at Burleigh Bears and along with Jamal Fogarty led the Bears to a drought-breaking Intrust Super Cup title this year.
As a mark of his leadership Dowling spoke with Schwass regularly about the transition from the under-20s competition into Queensland's top tier and the consistency needed in order to progress even further in rugby league.
Given his form in the back row for the Bears in 2016 Schwass was offered a 'train and trial' contract with the Titans and is impressing players and coaching staff with his work ethic and commitment to improvement.
The 21-year-old played 25 NYC games for the Titans across two seasons and said that the influence of Dowling has put him within reach of his dream of playing in the NRL.
"I definitely learnt a lot through this year, playing consistent footy at Queensland Cup level," Schwass told NRL.com.
"It was a big difference from when I was playing 20s and finding that consistency within the game. You have to get up for each week. You can't have an off week.
"Jamie Dowling helped me out a lot with that. He gave me a lot of advice not only through pre-season but throughout the whole year in keeping my game consistent.
"That's led me to here so hopefully I can push forward to even bigger and better things."
A Mudgeeraba Redbacks junior who has thrown himself into the opportunity to work with the Touch Football Specialised program for special needs children supported by the Titans, Schwass has a twin brother Daniel who is a promising talent in his own right and played alongside Hayden in a Titans NRL trial game in Whangarei in February.
Truth be told, according to Burleigh coach Jim Lenihan, Daniel looked the boy most likely to progress but Hayden has worked hard to now be sharing pre-season training with Titans superstars such as Jarryd Hayne, Konrad Hurrell and Chris McQueen.
"He played a little bit of football with our colts team so he's always been around but of the two twins he was probably the one who was least likely to make it," Lenihan said of Hayden.
"He's the one that probably had no choice than to work really hard all the time.
"He's just got a really good work ethic and isn't in front of himself at all. He's always working hard at his game and last year defensively he really did well on our right-hand side and keeping it intact as much as possible.
"His work ethic in defence is something that probably goes unnoticed by a lot of people all the time. He's covering tackles that he probably shouldn't have to and they're the sort of things that as a coaching staff and teammates that you're always working on and realise that most people watching don't see it."
Although he faces a tough time pushing past the likes of McQueen, Kevin Proctor and Zeb Taia should he even earn a full-time contract, Lenihan is adamant that he is a player the Titans should have in their club.
"Hayden is a bloke that is ideally placed in a club where his potential is still in front of him," he said.
"It's a great place for an NRL club to have a young, good bloke like him who is still working really hard at his game and still has a little bit of improvement in him and can get it.
"He's not going to let anyone down if he got an opportunity this year through injury.
"Hayden could easily fill a hole in first grade."
This article first appeared on NRL.com