AJ Brimson has his sights set on making the Titans fullback position his own as he soaks up all the wisdom retired custodian Michael Gordon is offering him at training.
Brimson has played 14 of his 36 NRL games at fullback with the rest in the halves or off the bench. With Gordon now retired and Tryone Roberts and Ash Taylor in line to play in the halves it has given the 21-year-old clarity about his role for the upcoming season.
All the experience Gordon gleaned in his 261-game NRL career, mostly at fullback, is helping Brimson fine-tune his skills. Gordon has moved into a new role at the Titans as NRL assistant and development coach and is working closely with the outside backs.
"Last year I was coming off shoulder surgery so I wasn't out on the field until after Christmas and we still had Flash [Gordon] there as well but this year I have been training at fullback and learning the position," Brimson told NRL.com.
"Flash can relate to players. He's only just retired and knows how the modern game works. Everything he says I try and take into my game. There are so many areas of fullback that you have to get down pat and with muscle memory it just becomes second nature.
"Now that I can train 24/7 at fullback it has given me a lot of confidence leading into the 2020 season.
"Ash and Tryone are training a lot together in halves and are looking sharp as they always do. It is good that we are all able to train together again [as a spine] because last year was a bit all over the shop due to injury."
Gordon said Brimson had outstanding game awareness and that the pre-season was about improving key skills.
"With me it has all been about kick/catch and passing. We've been punching out hundreds and hundreds of reps catching bombs and fielding grubbers. AJ has got to fit a lot in and that is the responsibility you have at fullback. You've got to own all that stuff and he is doing a really good job," Gordon told NRL.com.
"We will be doing a lot on identifying kickers and working with his wingers. He has been working really closely with Jim Dymock about positioning in the line because Jim is our defensive coach and at fullback you have got to own the defensive line.
"Last year he was coming back from shoulder surgery and in rehab a lot but this year I don't think he has missed a session. AJ is killing it in the gym and on the training field. It is all about repetition so it does become muscle memory. He is ticking all the boxes and nailing all the fundamentals, and of course he has his own skillset that he brings to the table."
Brimson plays at around the 89kg mark and his work in the gym and with the strength and conditioning staff has focussed on power and strength rather than adding bulk to his frame. One of his trademarks is speed and it is an asset he does not intend to lose as he prepares for what the Titans hope is a lengthy career at fullback after recently re-signing through to the end of 2022.
"I am around the same weight because I didn't want to put on any kilos. I am fitter and faster," Brimson said.
"At first I thought that I wanted to play in the halves because I had played there the most but after playing both positions the last year and a half I think fullback is the most enjoyable and where I can offer the most. It is just a case of getting a full pre-season there. It is just about learning all the little things now."