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'He's been great': The tight-knit bond over a lost grand final

Tony Francis is hoping Luke Burt's new appointment will help him get his opportunity to play NRL with the Gold Coast Titans.

The duo have a special bond that goes back to the youngster's school days, with the incoming Burleigh Bears coach taking the outside back's Westfields Sports side right to the big dance.

But the result of the decider at the time didn't go to plan, and it's something the pair remind each other about all the time. 

"Back in Sydney, I think I was in Year 9 when Burty came to Westfields Sports High School and coached us in one carnival. Fortunately, he took us right to the grand final, but he had to leave before the grand final and we ended up losing it," he recalled.

"I always give it to him about it, telling him that he gave us bad luck... but nah, he's a good coach. He knows his footy well and I was blessed to be coached by him."

Tony Francis on the first day of pre-season training. Photo: Gold Coast Titans
Tony Francis on the first day of pre-season training. Photo: Gold Coast Titans

As fate would have it, they crossed paths again when Francis joined the Titans as a development player, with the 20-year-old guided by his former schoolboy coach in the Hostplus Cup for Burleigh.

"I've learnt a lot from Burty, especially given he played at winger and fullback his whole career," Francis said.

"With me playing on the wing, I've learnt a lot like how to defend on the wing and to just get involved as much as you can and help your team out as much as you can.

"He's always in my ear from the sideline the whole game just reminding me about repeat efforts and to just go hard every game.

"He's been good and has helped out a lot."

With the 264-game Parramatta Eels legend now taking the top job at the Bears after serving as an assistant under Rick Stone, Francis can't wait to continue learning and developing at the Titans affiliate.

"I'm definitely excited. He knows his footy well and he'll be a great coach for us, especially taking over from Stoney because he's done a terrific job for us at Burleigh," he said.

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"With Burty, he knows what he's going to do and I'm keen to get out there and play under him again."

Getting a taste of NRL in the 2022 pre-season trial against the Broncos and travelling to New Zealand as part of the final 19-man squad in the final game of the previous season, the Future Titans pathways product is hoping his first grade debut isn't too far away.

"I obviously want to put on that jersey one day and hopefully to stay in there," Francis said.

"But you know, I've got to do the hard work first and just back my ability."

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Acknowledgement of Country

Gold Coast Titans proudly acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we are situated, the Kombumerri families of the Yugambeh Language Region. We pay our respects to their Elders past, present and emerging, and recognise their continuing connections to the lands, waters and their extended communities throughout South East Queensland.