Kane Elgey's honour of being named the Gold Coast Young Citizen of the Year is not only a great individual reward but a significant marker in the club winning back the support of the local community, according to club CEO Graham Annesley.
Nominated and presented with the award by none other than Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate, Elgey was left stunned when it was announced he was the recipient, the award recognising his great contribution to the community while out for the entire 2016 season with a knee injury.
A Gold Coast product with an active interest in community work, Elgey is the latest in a growing line of Titans players to have made significant and lasting contributions to the Gold Coast community.
Former players such as Preston Campbell, Luke Douglas and Matt Srama were tireless contributors while recent recruits such as Chris McQueen (animal welfare) and Konrad Hurrell (special needs children) have joined the likes of Elgey and William Zillman in throwing themselves into community programs in which the club is involved.
It was a bedrock of the Titans' early years on the Gold Coast and given the community fallout from the failed Centre of Excellence, community engagement along with a winning team has seen the re-emergence of Titans' merchandise on the streets of the GC.
The collapse of the Titans' property arm in 2012 left subcontractors with unpaid debts totalling more than $1.5 million and created a negativity that manifested itself through large sections of the Gold Coast's construction industry.
But even in the wake of the Centre of Excellence's failure, a drugs scandal that rocked the club and a financial position that led to the NRL stepping in and taking over as owners of the club's licence, Annesley said that the community work continued and that Elgey's award on Thursday night was a sign of how the club is now viewed by prominent Gold Coast leaders.
"Even during the club's difficult times the players were still out there day in and day out doing more than would normally be expected at most NRL clubs and that's continued through to this day," Annesley told NRL.com.
"It is incredibly important to all clubs but more so in our current environment. We are trying to rebuild trust within the community and the players play a big role in that because they are such a public face of the club.
"From my experience, even when I was at the NRL, this club has always gone above and beyond in the community in terms of the work that the players do.
"It's great that senior leaders of our city are recognising the fantastic work that sportspeople play in the community and the contribution they make to the social fabric of our society."
Due to celebrate his 23rd birthday on Saturday, Elgey was still in something of a state of shock on Friday but said that being active in the community became his major priority once he suffered his ACL injury in January last year.
"I set a goal at the start of the year after I did my knee to give to the community because that's all I could do," Elgey told Titans TV.
"Getting out to my junior club back at Tugun was a big thing and going to see kids in schools and a bit of charity work as well. I'm big on the charity work with a bit of a background in losing my dad, so that's a big thing for me.
"Last year not playing footy all year was pretty tough and getting out in the community – giving back to my junior club, getting out to schools and seeing the kids – it's not that big to me but when I go there and see the kids smile I guess they get a bit out of it. That's pretty cool."
Already a member of the club's leadership group despite having played just 16 NRL games, Elgey's background as a Gold Coast kid with excellent community standing and rare rugby league talent places him in a position to have a major influence on the success of the Titans for the next decade.
And Annesley couldn't hope for a better young half to be steering the club's fortunes.
"Kane epitomises everything that's good about the Gold Coast," Annesley said.
"He's a local kid and his ambition has been to make it in the NRL. He was the under-20s Player of the Year and burst onto the scene in the NRL itself in 2015 and then he had this horrendous setback in the off-season last year that kept him out for the entire season.
"But he never for a moment dropped his head. He worked incredibly hard to get back on the field better than ever and from what I have been told by the training staff his leg's as strong as it can possibly be and I expect him to pick up where he left off.
"Not only was he spending a lot of time trying to get himself back on the field while he wasn't playing he was spending an enormous amount of time in the community and that's what was recognised last night.
"He epitomises the type of culture that we want here at the club. He's a good kid, he doesn't get into trouble, he's focused, he's conscientious, he's respectful and he works hard, both on and off the field.
"You couldn't really ask for anything more."