Young Titan ready to replace Roberts
Towering 21-year-old Nene Macdonald has welcomed the opportunity to step into the right centre position vacated by try-scoring sensation James Roberts, saying that the time has come to make his mark.
Macdonald has already represented Papua New Guinea in four Tests, twice played for the Queensland under-20s and will next month make his World All Stars debut against the Indigenous All Stars at Suncorp Stadium.
It's quite the resume for a player who has made just 22 top grade appearances for two clubs across three seasons but Macdonald knows his greatest test will be to raise his game to a level that makes Titans fans forget the impact Roberts made in such a short space of time.
Having started the 2015 season playing on the wing for the Sydney Roosters, Macdonald made a mid-year move to the Gold Coast and scored four tries in 11 games for his new club, nine of those games played at left centre.
His average of 134.4 metres per game was the most of any Titans player last year and the 194-centimetre, 111-kilogram frame of Macdonald on the left was thought to complement Roberts's blistering speed on the right perfectly.
But the Titans now need a new star, and Macdonald knows it.
"I've got to step up a lot now, especially with Jimmy gone," Macdonald told NRL.com.
"We were supposed to get another centre but we've been struggling with that and now I'm pretty much the only main centre here at the moment.
"I guess I've just got to step up and be a leader in my position.
"Growing up I played mostly on the right side but all my rep footy I've been picked on the left so I don't really mind where I play but if I get picked on the right I'm happy playing on the right side."
Although coach Neil Henry is hopeful of adding an outside back to the roster prior to the start of the season, Macdonald has been training almost exclusively on the right and Josh Hoffman at left centre.
Hoffman and William Zillman rotated between fullback and left centre until Zillman suffered a back injury mid-season and it remains to be seen whether Henry reverts to that shared responsibility to start 2016.
Macdonald's development will receive a further boost during the week of the All Stars game where he will not only spend time in camp with the likes of Josh Morris, Jarrod Croker, Cameron Smith and Paul Gallen but play under master coach Wayne Bennett.
Given his experience with the Queensland under-20s Macdonald has met Bennett previously and is excited at the prospect of being coached by him even for a week.
"I'm over the moon about it," Macdonald said of his All Stars selection.
"Usually I'm always watching that game and then to play in it will be exciting, especially with that bunch of boys and under Wayne Bennett.
"I can't wait to start all the footy and get this pre-season done and get into footy.
"It just feels like it drags on pre-season but you need to get it done and then when you come to this time of year that's when you get excited to play footy again.
"The good thing about pre-season is that it makes you miss the footy."