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Sexton ready to emulate Walker, Walsh as rookie rising stars

Toby Sexton will draw confidence from the way his representative schoolboy teammates have handled the step up to NRL level when he makes his debut for the Titans.

Sexton, who recently signed an upgraded contract with Gold Coast until 2024, has been watching teen stars Sam Walker, Reece Walsh and Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow shine in their rookie NRL seasons while he has been helping the Tweed Seagulls into third place in the Intrust Super Cup.

However, Titans coach Justin Holbrook said the 20-year-old halfback was NRL ready and he will finally get his chance against St George Illawarra on Sunday after Jamal Fogarty was ruled out with a hand injury.

"For Toby it is a great opportunity but he has been ready to go for a while now and it is important for young guys – and particularly halfbacks – that they are playing well for the side they are in and he has done that for Tweed," Holbrook said.

"He has played well in the Queensland Cup every single week and is ready for his opportunity. We have obviously got a lot of confidence in him and are looking forward to him playing."

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The Gold Coast junior was man of the match in Tweed's National under-18s Championship defeat of Illawarra in 2018, which featured the likes of Walsh, Xavier Coates and Brendan Piakura in the Seagulls team.

The Steelers side included playmaker Jayden Sullivan and winger Mat Feagai, who will both line up opposite Sexton on Sunday, as well as Dragons rookies Tyrell Sloan, Talatau Amone and Max Feagai, and Bulldogs centre Aaron Schoupp.

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Sexton also played with Walker, Walsh and Tabuai-Fidow in the 2019 Australian schoolboys team that beat New Zealand.

"He has come through with those guys but is a different type of player," Holbrook said.

"Reece Walsh and Sam Walker are dangerous runners, but Toby is more that organising half with a lot of time in his game and he is very smart type of player.

"He has already got confidence out of seeing those boys handle the top grade really well, so he has just been biding his time and itching for an opportunity, which he now gets."

With Ash Taylor unsigned beyond this season, Sexton has been widely touted as the long-term Gold Coast playmaker but Holbrook is wary of putting added pressure on him ahead of his debut.

Instead, he will be looking for the Titans Origin quartet of AJ Brimson, David Fifita, Tino Fa'asuamaleaui and Moeaki Fotuaika to step up as the Gold Coast aim to begin their run towards the finals by beating the seventh-placed Dragons.

Gold Coast are one of eight teams vying for the last two spots in the top eight and sit four points behind St George Illawarra and two points behind eighth-placed Cronulla, with seven rounds to play.

Holbrook said the Titans had "reset" after their round 17 bye in the lead-up to Origin III and were now focused on securing a finals berth.

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"It is good that Origin is over because we had some players in that and they are all really young," he said.

"Queensland winning the last game meant the boys came back with plenty of confidence but they probably didn't play that great against Parramatta last week.

"Now that has settled down and we can get them back into a full week's training, we want to benefit from them playing at a higher level and showing that week to week now.

"One thing that we haven't been this year is consistent, and that's what we have got to get right or we don't deserve to play in the finals."