Confident Kane key to Titans future
Titans rookie Kane Elgey has revealed how the captaincy in his final year in the under-20s inspired the confidence he has brought to the NRL and the man who gave it to him says he is already influencing the next generation of Gold Coast hopefuls.
Coming off the back of two disappointing seasons in the NYC competition in 2012 and 2013, Elgey's rugby league career was very much uncertain 12 months ago, but the faith shown in him by new coach Ben Woolf turned his fortunes around.
Although the Titans under-20s won only six games in 2014, Elgey's Player of the Year season was built on intent to be better than the opposition No.7 each and every week and a sense of responsibility that came with the captaincy.
He may have won only 18 games across three years in the NYC but Elgey's NRL winning percentage is currently sitting at 80 per cent ahead of a tough assignment against the Raiders on Saturday, a position he couldn't have imagined himself in just a short time ago.
"I was starting my 2014 season off the back of two bad years in under-20s and we had a new coach which was good, I got along with him well," Elgey said. "He gave me the captaincy for the year and I suppose it started from there, from him believing in me.
"It was late in the pre-season [that he was told of the captaincy] but he just showed belief in me and said that he wanted me to be his captain.
"I was shocked at the time, I wasn't expecting it, but he said that he needed me to lead them around because I was probably the most experienced player in the team. He showed belief and made my year a lot better."
Having coached at the famed Keebra Park High School for a number of years, Woolf knew of the Palm Beach Currumbin product but had never met him prior to joining the Titans as their first full-time under-20s coach at the end of 2013.
Despite being an Australian Schoolboys representative in 2011, the raps on Elgey from previous coaches were not glowing but Woolf identified some key leadership qualities early in the pre-season.
"He was a kid that had all the potential in the world but speaking to guys who had been involved, he had been a bit disappointing," Woolf told NRL.com.
"He didn't have a real good year [in 2013] so he wasn't a guy that was highly recommended. They said that he had a bit of experience but not to expect too much out of him but from the start of pre-season he was really impressive.
"The fact that he was a very skilful kid really stood out and also that he was going to buy into everything we were going to do.
"[The captaincy] forced him to come out of his shell a little bit. The other boys in the group looked up to him anyway but he was always the kid who was happy to stand back and not say too much. It forced him into having to speak and let people know what he thought.
"He's an intelligent footballer and understood the game and it put him in a position where he was forced to share that knowledge.
"Kane's biggest problem when he wasn't performing was self confidence, it was never ability. I think the captaincy and growing in that position helped with his self confidence and to get a bit of belief in what he could do himself."
A week ago Elgey recommitted to Gold Coast for a further two years, spurning interest from the Sea Eagles and the opportunity to learn from Immortal Andrew Johns to form an exciting halves partnership with Daly Cherry-Evans.
Elgey hopes to pick the brain of Cherry-Evans when he arrives for any nuggets of playmaking gold the Queensland star has picked up from Johns in recent years but the commitment of the local junior promises to have far broader implications for the club.
A Gold Coast boy through and through, Elgey's elevation to the NRL team this year is evidence enough for young players coming through the Titans that they will be given an opportunity to play NRL if they are willing to put in the work.
"It shows that if you want to stay at home and you are good enough that there is a pathway to first grade which is important for a club like us that has struggled to retain kids in the past," Woolf said.
"He's a big signing for us because he did develop a lot of interest very quickly and I think he made the decision based on where he wanted to live, family, and things that were important to him other than money.
"Seventy per cent of our group played with him and trained with him last year and he wasn't that far in front of them. He only picked up a contract really late and it was a reward for how he played and the type of kid he was.
"The boys definitely see that there is a pathway there and an opportunity and to see that has been good for the group."
On the back of a handful – albeit impressive – games in the NRL, Elgey found himself at the centre of a bidding war between the Titans and Sea Eagles and said that while negotiations went for longer than he would have liked, he is now becoming accustomed to living life in the spotlight.
"It was tough, especially for a young bloke, chucking money at you," Elgey said of the contract whirlwind. "It was hard and it probably went on for a bit longer than I wanted to but it's all done now and I'm staying.
"All the pressure and the media [is tough] but I'm getting used to it I suppose. It's all a bit hard to process knowing I'm a 20-year-old who was playing 20s last year; I probably didn't expect this.
"I knew I had to step up because the team wasn't going so well but I didn't want to come in and try to do too much and overplay.
"Each week I'm starting to feel a bit more confident and it's growing so hopefully it keeps going."