The Gold Coast’s elite Junior Titans System (JTS) academy players travelled to Coffs Harbour on the weekend expecting to be tested on the footy field, but were challenged in every facet of life as a professional footballer as conditions conspired against them.
The Titans took to JTS squads to Coffs Harbour – under-16s and under-18s – for what has now become an annual fixture against the powerful junior Newcastle Knights teams.
Honours were split between the two clubs – with the Titans taking a hard-earned 18-14 win in the under-16s clash, while the Knights got away with a 24-10 win in the under-18s.
The “up-and-back” road trip is a massive test for the young future Titans, who must learn to mentally and physically prepare for their matches in less than ideal circumstances.
JTS Academy Coordinator Matt Srama said the well-publicised torrential rain on Saturday added yet another layer of difficulty for the future Titans.
“It was very wet, and made the conditions very tough,” Srama said. “In saying that, both teams dealt with it pretty well I thought.
“It was a really good experience for both teams – especially our 16s, being their first proper trial coming through our academy system. So it was really positive.
“The boys adapted really well. It was wet, things didn’t go exactly to plan – we couldn’t stop for our stretch and things like that. We just had to stay inside.
“But it was a credit to the guys. It was a really big day, and on the return, we stopped in Woodburn (northern NSW) and helped the economy grow there with the amount of food we bought there. It was good to gel as a whole crew – 16s and 18s together.”
Resilience was the key word for the under-16s squad after overcoming the conditions and Newcastle’s lead to record a storming victory, putting into action the lessons they have had drilled to them during on off-season of training.
“They are the first crew that has come through our academy and into the full-time JTS system,” Srama said of the under-16 squad.
“It is good to see that everything they have learnt from those earlier grades, they are implementing it and it is becoming second nature.
“It is really good to see those younger guys really adapting to the JTS system. They had a really great win – coming from behind. They showed a lot of resilience.
“it is a trial and we are not always looking to go out and win. It is more to implement what the JTS coaching staff – we have a lot of help and a lot of staff helping alongside. It is good to see that they implemented what was needed, and they stuck to what they have been learning.”
While an under-strength under-18s JTS squad went down to the Knights, Srama said the Titans team was not outclassed, just lacking a little polish against the Knights’ experienced SG Ball squad.
“We had a few out in the 18s, and obviously Newcastle are very strong in that age group,” Srama said. “In saying that, the boys handled themselves really well I thought.
“Physically they were there, it was more just the finesse – a bit of edge defence – which will probably get highlighted most in review. In saying that, they never lacked any effort
“The SG Ball competition is really strong down there in NSW.
“We have a younger under-18s squad – a lot of them are just coming on to 16 or 17. They will be much better for that coming into this year, then they will have another year next year.
“So it was a young squad, but we are really proud of the resilience they showed.”