Opportunity knocks for Titans enigma
Beau Henry was supposed to be 'the one'.
In a 2009 graduating class of under-20s players that included Daly Cherry-Evans, Kieran Foran, Gareth Widdop, Jared Waerea-Hargeaves, Jesse Bromwich and Trent Merrin – among others – Henry was declared the pick of the bunch.
"Being player of the year in that sort of company goes to show how much of a prospect Beau Henry was rated," says Fox Sports commentator Matt Russell.
"When you beat those players to become player of the year, you're carrying a fair bit of expectation.
"That underlines perhaps the enigma that he is, that he was able to beat so many genuine NRL players now to become player of the year but hasn't gone on to own an NRL career like a few of those others."
While his individual brilliance shone across three seasons for St George Illawarra in the under-20s competition there remained a viewpoint that he was a selfish player who would neglect the needs of his team for personal glory.
Despite the raps and groundswell of support among fans of the Red V about this Warilla Gorillas junior in the halves, Wayne Bennett never gave him a shot in first grade at the Dragons and so he sought an NRL opportunity at the Knights.
But a month after Henry made his NRL debut in Round 1, 2011 for Newcastle, Bennett was announced as the Knights' head coach for 2012 and beyond, and less than two months later Henry found himself on the Gold Coast.
Off-contract at the end of the 2014 season and with a solitary NRL game for the Titans to his credit, Henry gets an opportunity to press his claims for more first grade footy filling in for the injured Albert Kelly against the Broncos on Friday night.
Described as aloof and insular, Henry has had to spend the best part of four years trying to work out how to fit in and after a year out of the game with a knee reconstruction gets a third chance to make a good first impression.
With Kelly, Ashley Harrison (concussion) and Greg Bird (suspension) all unavailable, coach John Cartwright confirmed that the 24-year-old will be given his 12th first grade game and first since Round 6 last season.
"[Beau] trained there at five-eighth [on Thursday] and with no 'Harro' or 'Birdy'... There are some other options but he's been good for [Tweed Heads] Seagulls so far this year, he's playing nice and aggressive with a good kicking game so he'll take his place there," Cartwright said.
Having seen plenty of Henry coming through the under-20s system, Russell has been surprised that such a talent hasn't been able to establish a regular NRL spot. Henry scored 33 tries in 51 appearances across three seasons in the National Youth Competition, took the Dragons to Week 3 of the finals in 2009 and was viewed as a long-term prospect in the halves.
"He was certainly turning heads at St George Illawarra and they thought if they could just polish a few rough edges that he might develop into a halfback of note," Russell told NRL.com.
"Any young player who wins the under-20s Player of the Year has people at his current club and other clubs discussing him with interest and that was certainly the case in his time at St George Illawarra.
"There was no doubting his ability and raw talent but there was always a question mark over some of the non-measurable ingredients that go into making a rugby league player.
"I remember him scoring a hat-trick at Kogarah against Melbourne in 2009 and he also scored a hat-trick in a loss to the Gold Coast where he was the standout individual but I was always wondering why he never carried this brilliant under-20s form through to NRL."
Kevin Gordon's knee injury hands Kalifa Faifai Loa his first game as a Titan and although the side heads into the crucial pre-Origin south-east Queensland showdown missing four of their most influential players, rather than viewing it as a mountain too high, Cartwright sees an opportunity to achieve something special.
"All year is about waiting for the cyclone to hit and it's hit us this week but we're not too concerned," he said.
"It's exciting actually, when you name players that are playing their first game for the club or first game for the year in first grade, it gives everyone a buzz.
"The [wins] you remember are the ones where your back's against the wall'; you never seem to remember the ones where everyone is fit and firing and playing well. Those ones stand out a little bit more but this one's an extra special one being a local derby."