Titans winger Anthony Don hails from the Northern Rivers of NSW and is on a mission to unearth the next generation of stars from the rugby league heartland region.
Don played his junior football with the Grafton Ghosts but when he was a teenager there was no Gold Coast franchise or avenue into a local top-grade side in the NRL.
Thanks to the Junior Titans System (JTS) the pathway is now crystal clear and juniors from the Northern Rivers, Gold Coast and South Brisbane area train at the Titans base on Tuesday and Thursday nights.
Don helps out on Thursday evenings and also makes regular development trips to Northern Rivers centres during the year. Providing them with opportunities that he did not have as a youth is close to his heart.
"The Northern Rivers is in the Gold Coast catchment and the Titans are really looking to that area which previously they haven’t," said Don, a late bloomer who was 25 when he debuted for the Titans in 2013.
"There are a lot of guys from the Northern Rivers in our team currently so it is good to bring some kids through, role model them and make them better players.
"A lot of these kids are talented 16 and 17 year-olds and they have a perfect pathway into the NRL because they are in the system and NRL coaches are looking at them.
"They will be able to get into the full-time squad.
"Hopefully they are listening to a thing or two before they overtake me. When I was their age I wasn’t up to their standard. I matured a bit later."
Don is 32 and contracted until the end of the 2020 season but is yet to make a call on whether he will play on beyond the coming season. He played 17 top-grade games in 2019 and finished the year in the Intrust Super Cup where he won a premiership with Burleigh.
Don is relishing training under new head coach Justin Holbrook and the Titans' all-time leading tryscorer has set himself the goal of winning back his spot in the NRL team.
"[The record] is something when I finish my career I will look back on very fondly but at the moment it is about working hard and getting my spot back in the NRL squad. My body is in perfect nick so hopefully it stays that way," Don said.
"It is a fresh start with the new coach coming in and the new coaching staff. The pre-season has been awesome. We are training really hard with a focus on improving all our skills… and learning what the coach wants from the outside backs."
Don is hurling himself into the pre-season with a familiar face by side in new assistant coach Jimmy Lenihan.
Lenihan was the Burleigh Bears premiership-winning coach in 2019 before getting his promotion.
Don, who also played for Burleigh before signing with the Titans, said Lenihan was already making an impact.
"Jimmy has been really energetic and has quite a loud voice at training so his presence is always noticed," Don said
"He is always positive and he is helping out with our outside backs, especially in attack. He has been a great addition to the Titans."
Don has plenty going on away from the field. He and wife Samantha have a four-week old baby daughter. The former teacher, who has a Bachelor of Education, will soon complete an MBA which he hopes will lead to a post-career opportunity with the Titans.
"The NRL support education and the Titans do as well so it was an opportunity to up-skill myself. When I finish my career I will try and get a job hopefully