Jaylan De Groot has returned to Titans HQ with a refuelled desire to avenge his finals disappointment after falling short in 2023.
A key figure of Tweed's Hastings Deering Colts side that were touted the competition favourites, the Seagulls were expected to make it through to the last ever Under 21s grand final... but an abundance of complacency saw them stumble unexpectedly, beaten one week short of potential glory by eventual premiers Townsville.
It was a scenario the 20-year-old was never anticipating... but it's given him a valuable life lesson as he continues to build on his fledgling football career with the Gold Coast.
"Going into that game, we thought we should've won that game because we felt we were the best team in the comp, but it just goes to show that if you don't turn up on the day, anything can happen," De Groot told titans.com.au.
"We started poorly and it just took too long for us to catch up.
"It still hurts... going into that game, we knew the grand final was going to be the last 20s game there was for Tweed because they canned the comp, so it was a hard result to swallow.
"I didn't watch too much of the [Colts] grand final to be honest. Seeing the Blackhawks were up by 20 something at half-time... it was just frustrating.
"You just can't take anything for granted... whether it's a team or your opposition; you can't go to a game and be like... 'oh yeah, we're going to win this'.
"You've got to prepare for every game and just stay focused... I think we lost a bit focus during that game."
Not just wanting to make amends from his Colts disappointment, 2023 was also an injury-ravaged year for the Cudgen Hornets junior, who started strongly in the Hostplus Cup before being sidelined with a knee complaint after Round 5.
But upon returning to pre-season fit, firing and on a high after graduating to the club's development list after learning in last season's full-time train-and-trial stint, the Future Titans alumni is hoping he can impress new coach Des Hasler with an opportunity in February's early hit-outs - especially having seen the rise of Keano Kini and close mate Tom Weaver clinch their recent first grade opportunities with both hands.
"Playing in both trials would be awesome... any experience I can get to better myself and show the club what I can do moving forward is definitely what I want to do," De Groot said.
"I then really want to play Cup all year and hopefully that leads to a NRL debut.
"It's all about taking the opportunities when you get them... if I play well, it's out of my control what happens from there.
"I'm just going to make sure I put my best foot forward throughout the year."
Also helping De Groot's elevation to the Gold Coast's official playing squad is a unique nostalgic element alongside Weaver and Oskar Bryant - the Titans trio having a strong bond that has spanned from growing up together.
"It's like Under 11s again when Tom, Oskar and I were all going to school and playing footy together," he said.
"It's crazy to think that nearly 10 years have past now and we're all sitting together at a pre-season at our local NRL club... it's pretty surreal actually.
"We're best mates and it makes the training a lot easier because you know you're doing it with your mates and they can help you push through it.
"They know you and what to say to get you through stuff. There's also good banter there and all that as well."