Maria Tsialis, Big League
Commitment is a funny thing. It makes some people swoon while others run for the hills. It creates all sorts of anxiety for those whose blood runs slightly cold at the thought of the scary, distant ‘future’.
If a rugby league contract were a loving relationship, William Zillman’s commitment to the Titans would be equivalent to agreeing to ‘have and to hold, ’til death do us part’.
He moved to the Gold Coast in 2007 initially on a four-year deal and, after signing with the club again this March for a further five years, he will likely set a record as the longest-serving member of the Titans.
When pondering this predicament, we couldn’t help asking ourselves (and him) whether the thought of exchanging vows with one club for the rest of his career filled him with some sense of trepidation.
“No, not at all,” Zillman answers quickly, and with ease. “For me it really was an easy decision. I initially signed a four-year deal with the club and at the time I thought that was a really long one.
“But I’ve had a fantastic time up on the Gold Coast, surrounded by a great bunch of guys on and off the field. I’m really enjoying my football at the moment, enjoying living where I’m living. I was more than happy to extend for that period.”
At the time of the signing, his coach John Cartwright called Zillman future leadership material, and it’s easy to see why. The well-spoken 25-year-old has a calm and friendly demeanour that shows why he fits in so well with the typically laid-back Gold Coast lifestyle.
Having started his career in Canberra after finishing high school in Queensland, Zillman took the opportunity to be a foundation member of the Titans and move back closer to his family. There were a million reasons to stay on the Gold Coast but there was one that stuck out most.
“I think for me it’s important to have that off‑field lifestyle in check as well,” says Zillman on the eve of game number 111. “It’s good to get away from football and be able to catch up with your friends and family. Sometimes you need that.
“Initially I went straight from high school down to Canberra. I didn’t know anyone but the Raiders were really good in inviting me into the club and it very quickly became my home. But in the end moving closer to home was what I felt like doing.”
Much like the Titans’ season so far, Zillman’s form this year had been admittedly slow to get firing. Up until his round 19 blitz of the Raiders, he hadn’t scored a try in 2012.
Three weeks later and his tally stands at four, and with Aidan Sezer permanently filling the No.6 jersey he can concentrate on getting things right at the back.
“I guess it’s good for me just having that consistency every week, knowing what I’m playing and working on my game,” Zillman says of the move back to fullback after he flirted with playing five-eighth. “I’ve got two halves in Sezer and Prince who are really starting to gel well together. It definitely makes it a lot easier for me.
“The whole team, we’ve been trying our hearts out since round one and it’s all starting to come to fruition now. I think it’s the same for myself; I’ve been lucky enough to score a few points of late, but we’ve got to keep it going and keep improving each week so we can be there come finals time.”
Aside from all his qualities on the football field, he’s also got an academic side, currently working his way through a business degree via correspondence.
“It’s something I always wanted to do,” he says, “something away from football. I think we’ve got a good opportunity to do things like that because I can chip away at it and I don’t need it at the moment. I can just take my time with it and hopefully it might come in handy later on.”
To his team-mates, Zillman is known as ‘TP’ – the total package. But as he navigates his way through his career, there is one part of the Gold Coast life that he just can’t get his head around.
“I’ve tried surfing. I definitely wouldn’t consider myself a surfer,” he admits. “I think everyone who lives on the Gold Coast gives it a go. We’ve got a few guys who are pretty handy on a board,” he adds, stopping for a beat, “but not me.”