AJ Brimson has credited mentoring sessions with Johnathan Thurston for his determination to increase his "effort plays" this year for Gold Coast as he aims to follow in the footsteps of the Maroons legend.
Thurston has joined the Queensland Maroons coaching staff and has been appointed by the QRL as a mentor for emerging State of Origin players.
His words of wisdom for Brimson in an Emerging Maroons camp two months ago are still resonating with the 20-year-old Titan.
"When we were doing our halves and spine chat JT spoke about the importance of effort plays, and you listen because he was always in the picture when someone was scoring or when he needed to be supporting a teammate," Brimson told NRL.com.
"When he talks about Origin you can hear in his voice how much it means to him. It is pretty cool to take that away, how he is one of the greats of the game but still put in 100 per cent every week without taking his foot off the pedal.
"I want to be that sort of player and that’s why each week I never take anything for granted. Effort is something you can control, so I want to make sure I am making 100 per cent effort in every play for the Titans."
Brimson, who shone at fullback and in the halves in 2018 in his rookie season, may come off the bench for round one in their Telstra Premiership clash with Canberra. Wherever he plays, it is will be with Thurston's "team first" ethos firmly in focus.
"You’ve seen how JT is not the biggest fella but when his team needed him to take the ball into the line and cop a whack he’d do it, and when he got hit he'd get straight back up because his team needed him," Brimson said.
"I look at all the stuff like that he did which is always beneficial for the team."
A keen student of the game, Brimson said Thurston's ability to ice a match with the clutch play, like he did in the 2015 grand final with a golden point field goal, had its genesis on the training park.
"He would have visualised that moment every day after training, and whether he had to put the ball on a dime with a cross-field kick, land a field goal or come up with the clutch play it all comes down to how much he practised," Brimson said.
"We do some good training here at the Titans where we visualise what you should do in a game and then practise it. We might play seven minutes where we’ll say it is that last seven minutes and you are losing by two points, and that helps us finish games off. Or if we are in the lead it will be all about controlling the game for that seven minutes.
"I look at my games last year and I still made heaps of errors, so I have heaps of things to work on."
Titans captain Ryan James told NRL.com he was not surprised by Brimson's humility.
"Sometimes you get chucked into a first-grade squad and you might think you know everything but AJ is always willing to learn and work on the little things that make players better," James said.
"He is not the most natural kicker or ball player, but his effort plays and willingness to be around the ball and touch the ball is something exciting the club hasn’t had in a long time.
"Last year against Manly we were behind but he wasn't afraid to put it on the boot and grubber for a try, and that got us into a position to win that game all because he has that confidence.
"I don’t want to talk him up too much but after what he did last year, and seeing the things he does at training, AJ could be anything."