Titans open to extending Zillman's tenure
Two months of uninterrupted football have not only convinced William Zillman that he wants to play on in 2018 and beyond but given the Titans cause to reconsider whether they can find a place for one of the club's most loyal servants.
When Zillman suffered a calf injury in Round 1 against the Roosters and then ruptured it completely in Round 3 his recent history of injuries were mounting to the point that it looked as though his body could no longer sustain the work needed to play in the Telstra Premiership.
It would have been a cruel way to finish for one of the fittest players in the competition but not only has Zillman been able to string together seven consecutive games he has been making valuable contributions in his new position on the left wing.
Due to turn 31 on Sunday when the Titans put their finals hopes on the line against the Wests Tigers at Cbus Super Stadium, Zillman played 90 games for the Titans in his first four years on the Gold Coast but has added just 60 in the five years since.
It's been something of a tortured existence of late but with the club banking on exciting young pair Tyronne Roberts-Davis and Phillip Sami graduating to the senior squad next year there is value to be found in keeping a player of Zillman's experience and standing on the roster for at least another year.
Any contract he is offered will be well down on what he has been receiving on the five-year contract that expires at the end of this season but Gold Coast coach Neil Henry has not closed the door completely on Zillman staying on for a 10th season.
"It will come down to what offers he's able to get from other clubs and whether or not we can make an offer that's going to make him happy to stay," Henry said.
"It would be around the depth that we've got. Tyronne Roberts-Davis played half a dozen games this year, he's contracted next year, we've got young Phillip Sami coming through the ranks as well so it's whether or not we could carry him in that 30.
"He's had a fairly disrupted few seasons with missing a lot of footy so it's good to see him contributing and playing consistent football and carrying the ball nice and aggressively and getting us some momentum with some quick play-the-balls."
A picture of peak physical fitness every NRL pre-season, Zillman admits that while he never doubted he could make a successful return to the Titans, the timing of his injuries became a source of frustration.
After playing the first 10 games of the 2015 season a chronic back injury prevented Zillman from featuring again that year and his 2016 season had a delayed beginning due to a calf injury that made an unwelcome return in game one of the 2017 season and saw him miss a total of 10 weeks.
"I would often think about the timing of it all," Zillman told NRL.com.
"This year I trained an entire pre-season – I didn't miss one session – and then played all the trials, the Nines and unfortunately Round 1 tore my calf.
"It's a devastating blow, not only the injury but the timing of it all but 99 per cent of footballers will have a story like that.
"It's a hard one when you are injured and they hand you the scan and tell you that you're going to be out for six to eight weeks or whatever it is.
"Wrapping your head around something like that is very tough, especially after I'd had a couple of years of injuries but it is part of the game and we're so fortunate that we've got the best of the best medical staff here and facilities as well.
"Injuries are hard and there are a hundred different thigs that go through your head, especially on something like a recurring injury. That really is the hardest thing for someone of my age."
It has become evident that with each game Zillman has played of late that his confidence has grown, slicing through the Panthers defence last Saturday in mid-field to set up Jarryd Hayne for the team's first try of the game like he did as a teenager starting out with the Raiders.
His carries from inside the Titans' half have been crucial in getting the team on the front foot and reinforced to the Rochedale Brothers junior that he still has a role to play in the NRL.
"I'm absolutely loving my football and feeling great. The body's feeling really good, definitely the best it has felt for a few years," said Zillman, who became just the second Titans player to reach 150 games for the club last weekend.
"For me it was really about getting back from my injury and putting together a couple of good months of football.
"I've been back for two or three months now and really enjoying my football so that back-of-house stuff is simmering away there and we'll see what happens.
"This is my ninth season here now and as everyone would know it has been an up and down ride for the club but I've thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.
"I've played with some of the legends of the game and I can never thank them enough for what they've taught me about myself and how to be a professional footballer at the highest level.
"It was an honour to pull on that jersey for the 150th time, it really was."