2017 Top 10: Big Hits
The Titans are buying back the farm and in 21-year-old forward Keegan Hipgrave they have a young bull whose former schoolboy and Intrust Super Cup coach insists is the most aggressive and competitive footballer he has coached.
When Hipgrave made his NRL debut against the Roosters in round 26 of the 2017 Telstra Premiership he became the 38th former Palm Beach Currumbin High student to play in the top grade.
The former Bronco is now one of seven former students from the Gold Coast powerhouse school in the Titans top squad as the club continues to bring back to the Glitter Strip its best former juniors.
Palm Beach Currumbin head coach Aaron Zimmerle, who also recently coached Tweed Heads Seagulls in the Intrust Super Cup, said it came as no surprise to him that Hipgrave was suspended for one game in his debut match for putting a shoulder charge on Jake Friend.
“I’ve never coached or come across anyone with Keegs’ aggression, and as strong a competitive streak,” Zimmerle said.
“He will knock himself out in the effort of trying to put someone two foot under the ground, but he’s got to learn how to control that.
“In every moment of a game he only wants to go 100 miles an hour. He is in the red permanently but he will need to learn how to temper that as the game gets quicker, but when he adapts to that at the NRL level he could do anything.”
Zimmerle has plenty of anecdotes that provide an insight into Hipgrave’s mentality, including his six extraordinary Intrust Super Cup displays for Tweed Heads last year.
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“Keegan said to Neil Henry ‘no disrespect but rather than play NYC I want to play Intrust Super Cup against men to prepare myself for the NRL’,” Zimmerle recalled.
“We were struggling and didn’t have any experienced forwards to lead him, but he still won our players’ player award in all six games he played in.
“In one of those games we lost a centre to injury so he played centre and every time Keegan jumped out of the line he would destroy his opposition centre in defence.
“In terms of pure impact and the desire to hurt his opposite number, Keegs is the most ferocious I’ve come across in my time.”
Zimmerle said Hipgrave had other physical attributes which made him more than a handful.
“He ran sub 11 seconds for 100m at district championships when he was at school,” he said.
“He’s got ridiculous acceleration and speed and has a background as a swimmer and water polo player, so he’s got great fitness and lung capacity."
Hipgrave also has an appreciation of where he came from. He credits his Palm Beach Currumbin school for giving him the grounding and belief that he could be an NRL player.
“It set a real platform,” Hipgrave told NRL.com
“We’ve got at least seven ex-PBC players that have graduated on to play NRL - Ryan Simpkins, Kevin Proctor, Kane Elgey, Karl Lawton, Ryan James, Will Matthews and myself.
“When I was in primary school my mum taught at PBC and she would take me along to their games and I’d watch Ryan James and Kevin Proctor play.
“You looked up to them when they went on to play NRL and wanted to follow in their footsteps. Now I get to train and play alongside them it is unreal."
Hipgrave said he would be pushing for a lock or utility bench spot in 2018 and predicted the club was set to turn around its recent woes.
“I had limited opportunities at the Broncos and I really wanted to make my debut when I came back to the Gold Coast because I am from here and I love it here,” he said.
“My biggest goal for this year it to crack the top 17.
“I see a massive future here. Garth Brennan is doing wonderful things with the club, we have new owners and Dennis Watt has come in [as chairman] who I knew at Brisbane, and he is a great dude.
“Garth talks about it a lot, how it is all about having really good people around the club.
“Even the boys he’s brought in you can see are good players who also care about the direction the club is going in.”