Titans coach Neil Henry has warned Kane Elgey that there will be nowhere to hide against the Sharks on Saturday after naming the 21-year-old to make his NRL debut this weekend.
Elgey has become the latest graduate of the Australian Schoolboys class of 2011 to be handed an NRL debut after Daniel Mortimer sustained a wrist injury last weekend that will sideline him for close to a month.
The Tugun Seahawks junior will partner Aidan Sezer in the halves against the Sharks in Sydney on Saturday evening and join a growing list of young stars to make their NRL debuts in the past two seasons.
Elgey partnered Wests Tigers back-rower Curtis Sironen in the halves when the Australian Schoolboys squared a series against the New Zealand Residents 18s one-all in 2011 in an Aussie team that also boasted the likes of David Klemmer (Bulldogs), George Jennings (Panthers), Jake Trbojevic (Sea Eagles), Junior Paulo (Eels) and Samisoni Langi (Roosters).
Named the under-20s player of the year despite the Titans finishing second-last in 2014, Elgey's promotion has come earlier than coach Neil Henry anticipated but he is confident he will make a positive contribution in what will be a hostile environment.
"It's probably come a bit sooner than expected for all of us but he's been in pretty good form in the Queensland Cup," said Henry, highlighting Elgey's man-of-the-match performance for Tweed Heads last weekend.
"He'll have to [contribute] and he'll have to control his edge as well. Aidan [Sezer] will put his hand up to be the major voice there – as he should with his experience – but you can't go away from the fact that once you put that jumper on you've got to command the ball and get some of the kicks away and hold your own out there.
"He's been ordering players around during the pre-season anyway and he's been able to get out there with the NRL boys for a whole pre-season so his confidence is good, he's playing some good footy."
Although he has limited opportunities in open competition and his player of the year award came as something of a surprise, Elgey's composure at training and performances in pre-season trials were proof enough that he was nearing what was required to play in the NRL.
Henry was coy when asked whether the left-footed Elgey would force him to shift Sezer (also a left-footer) to the right side of the field – "We might keep 'Flanno' (Sharks coach Shane Flanagan) guessing there" – but said how he holds up in defence will be of greater importance than what he brings in attack.
"He's a left-footer, he's got a bit of a sharp step there too and he can play at the line and play nice and square for us," Henry said.
"He's deceptive, he's got a little bit of speed there and one thing he has done is to build up his strength and improved his defence which will need to be on song on the weekend against a side with [Paul] Gallen lurking around the middle and who likes to play short sides as well.
"We're confident that the guys around him will help him out and he's really looking forward to the challenge, quite excited to get the nod."
Saturday's game against the Sharks marks a couple of milestones at the club with the Titans to be playing in their 200th premiership match and centre William Zillman to play his 150th NRL game having debuted for the Raiders in Round 2, 2006.