Thurston's advice rings true for Cullen

A glimpse into the greatness of North Queensland co-captain Johnathan Thurston was the final piece of the puzzle for Cameron Cullen who will make his NRL debut for the Titans against the Sharks on Sunday.

Signed only to a 'train and trial' contract in January following the season-ending injury to Kane Elgey, Cullen's opportunity has come courtesy of a knee injury to Tyrone Roberts and the 22-year-old is determined not to let it go to waste.

Embedded in the Broncos system from the age of 13, the Gold Coast junior spent a pre-season with the Cowboys when he linked with the Mackay Cutters for the 2015 season and took every advantage to soak up knowledge from the game's best player, knowledge he now intends to put into practice.

Floated as a possible starter last week against the Broncos, Cullen gave coach Neil Henry all the convincing he needed with a man-of-the-match performance for Burleigh last Sunday having also impressed in the club's trial against South Sydney.

"I knew 'Greeny' [Cowboys coach Paul Green] from his days at the Broncos and just the opportunity to have a pre-season under him and 'JT' was enough for me to move up there," said Cullen. 

"I learned so much just watching him; how much time he had through putting himself in the position to create time for himself; how he positioned players around him and how he prepared every day.

"And I'd hang off his every word when we had the chance to talk pass on a tip. The most important tip he gave me was to slow down; I was trying to do everything at 100 miles an hour but he said it's fine to slow it at times and take a breath and look around.

"It made me a more complete footballer. At the Broncos I slotted between the halves and hooker but when I went up north they only saw me as a half and that gave me confidence.

"I had a pretty good year at Mackay but never got a chance to play for the Cowboys but I always, even then, thought I'd get a chance at a club somewhere in the NRL."

 


His former Broncos under-20s coach Kurt Richards also believed Cullen's day would come and said in addition to his 50 Intrust Super Cup games with Redcliffe and Mackay it was the NRL pre-seasons he needed most to reach the next level.

"He came into an NRL system very young and probably just lacked that all-round skill level when he became tired," Richards told NRL.com.

"It takes a fair few off-seasons to get that to where it needs to be so it's a real credit to him that he kept working hard and not given up.

"The big things have been the NRL off-seasons and having those opportunities to have a few more of those and develop his skills under pressure while he's tired with good players around him.

"He's been to a few clubs now and worked had, had a few pre-seasons and it's really good to that he's getting this opportunity. I'm really happy for him."

Cullen only returned to the Gold Coast last year due to the sudden tragic passing of his older brother Justin, unable to bring himself to finish the Intrust Super Cup season with the Cutters.

Footy was the furthest thing from his mind but following the birth of his daughter with partner Charis, Cullen is now looking forward to making many more happy memories back on the Gold Coast.

"When Justin passed away footy was out of the picture for a while and then we had our baby," said Cullen.

"Coming home was all about family and not football but I knew I wanted to play again and I never gave up on wanting to play NRL. 

"I’ve grown a lot as a person from the journey I've been on and all I want to do is play first grade.

"Now I get that chance – and with my home club."

Video first featured at titans.com.au