Davis inspired by grandfather's wish
Watching Nathan Davis trudge up and down the back-fields at Burleigh over the steamy Gold Coast summer, the question wasn't whether this supposedly fleet-footed outside back would work his way into the NRL team but whether he would survive the session.
A star of the under-20s at Parramatta and an Australian Schoolboys representative in 2013, Davis arrived at the Titans seeking an opportunity but looking a far cry from the athlete who had been compared to Greg Inglis coming through the junior grades.
But lurking in the back of Davis's young mind was the family he left behind in western Sydney and the ageing grandfather whose primary wish on his bucket list was to see his grandson play in the NRL.
Still just 20 years of age, Davis has been named at right centre to face his former club in Darwin on Saturday evening and although he is facing pressure from new recruit Konrad Hurrell to keep his spot, has already made his grandfather Ron a proud man.
Along with his father, Davis's pop encouraged him to play rugby league from a young age and the Titans centre believes it was their brutally honest appraisals that allowed him to develop to the point where he was selected for his NRL debut in Round 1 earlier this year.
"He's obviously getting old and he wanted to see me play first grade before he goes so that was pretty good," Davis said of his unexpected elevation to the NRL team following a pre-season injury to Nene Macdonald.
"I talked to him after the game and he was ecstatic, even better because we got the win as well.
"He never put me on a pedestal and always told me what I did wrong and what I could do better.
"I reckoned that helped me to get to where I wanted, not to be put on a pedestal and always showing me what I could do better."
Davis's parents and one of his brothers were on hand to see him line up against the Knights in Round 1 and he has since played six games for the Titans – alternating between centre and wing – after injuring his shoulder in the Round 2 loss to the Storm.
Last week against the Rabbitohs he was given little room to move by Inglis and said it was those early comparisons to a superstar of Inglis's standing that convinced him to pursue a career playing rugby league.
"I wasn't really going to take football seriously until I got the call-up to go and play SG Ball [with Parramatta]. From there I decided to pull my socks up and have a good crack at it, and now I'm here," Davis told NRL.com.
"Mum kept saying to me, 'Make sure you keep going to school', and I was like, 'Nah, don't worry, I'll be playing NRL.' Ever since I was a little kid it was all I wanted to do.
"My dad was always trying to get me to have a look at that sort of stuff (comparisons to Inglis) but I didn't really want to know about it. They're some big shoes to fill. I just want to be myself, do what I can do.
"It was a great feeling to hear people saying I could be like 'GI'. As soon as I heard that I thought I had a real chance to make something of myself."
Despite being offered a contract to remain at the Eels, Davis saw little chance for progression into the top team, a decision that would prove even more judicious following the late signing of Michael Jennings from the Roosters.
Now the Titans have Hurrell on the books and England international Dan Sarginson on the way in 2017 but Davis has no doubt that he made the right call.
"They did offer [a contract] but there was not really a good opportunity there," Davis said of his decision to leave the Eels.
"Coming up here was the best choice I could have made. It gives me a crack at having a go, of playing in the NRL.
"It's better to have competition otherwise you can get a little slack during the season."