While the Titans were celebrating beating the Broncos for the second time in 2020, Erin Clark’s focus after the game quickly switched.
The 23-year-old had been told that this would be his last game for the season – it had nothing to do with form, instead the Coaching staff were trying to help Clark get back to New Zealand for the birth of his daughter.
“The week before the Bulldogs game, Justo (Holbrook) and Anthony Lafrancchi (GM of Football) pulled me aside and said they had discussed it and wanted me to get back as soon as I could so it would give me more time to spend with my little family.
“The Tuesday after the Broncos game, I was on the flight and headed home for two weeks quarantine first.
“Five days before I finished my quarantine, my daughter was born.
“I’m lucky we have FaceTime because I could be there for the whole labour.”
“My daughter Alya-Elise was born on the 24th of September, weighing at eight points 12.
“Both our baby and her mum are healthy after birth.
“At the moment there is no sign of who she is going to look like, but she does look exactly like my 2-year-old son Joel with the exact dimple in the same spot.”
When COVID-19 hit, Clark’s family decided to head back to New Zealand before the borders closed so that they could be with family.
“I think specifically toward the back end of the season it was tough because we were on strict lockdown and I was so used to coming home to my family after a long day,” Clark said.
“Being home by yourself and so used to hearing my son raving away, it was a battle, but I got through and I’m so happy to be with them through this off-season.”
Fellow New Zealander Sam Lisone said that with no family able to visit, his Titans team-mates became like family this season.
“I agree with Sam, the group of boys here are probably the best I’ve been a part of,” Clark said.
“Especially when my family left to go back to NZ, it really showed with the boys always checking in to see if I was sweet and that included the coaches and staff.
“It made it easier knowing I had the support of all the boys if I ever needed anything.”
Despite what was going on off-field, Clark thrived on-field in 2020 playing ten games at hooker and from the interchange bench.
“There was a lot of trial and error (this season), learning and making mistakes,” Clark said.
“I never expected to play any games this year, but I was lucky enough to get the opportunity.
“Coming from local park footy in New Zealand in 2019 to my first and only Queensland Cup game and then straight into an NRL match was a big step up and I’m still finding my feet.
“With another pre-season under my belt, hopefully I can offer a bit more.
“I really want to work on my speed and attack (in the pre-season).
“The great hookers in the NRL are quick and run a lot, so if I can run a bit more and be a bit more explosive out of dummy half then hopefully I can help the team.”
Clark will return to begin pre-season next month, but before then it’s family time.