Don ready to finally come of age
His 30th birthday is only a matter of days away but Titans winger Anthony Don says he only now feels comfortable in accepting a leadership role to help usher the next generation into the top grade.
A cult hero among Titans fans, Don elevated his stature within the club on Wednesday night when he was named the winner of the Paul Broughton Medal as the club's best and fairest for 2017.
Points were allocated each week by the coaching staff on a 3-2-1 basis with Don edging out Nathan Peats, Jarrod Wallace and Kevin Proctor for the top award of the night.
Although it has been almost a decade in the making, taking out the Titans' major award completes a triumvirate of gongs for Don who was named the Group 1 Player of the Year whilst playing for the Grafton Ghosts and then a year later was named Burleigh's Player of the Year in his first season in the Intrust Super Cup.
A reserved character who awkwardly accepts any praise that may come his way, Don scored 12 tries in 20 games for the Titans in 2017 along with earning his first Country Origin jersey where he scored a length of the field try in City's 20-10 win.
During the course of the season the Titans saw the emergence on Tyronne Roberts-Davis and Phillip Sami in the outside backs and Don says he is now ready to accept the responsibility that comes with being a senior player.
"It's definitely something that's my responsibility now as I'll be the elder statesman," Don said of his place in the outside backs.
"Even though I've been older in the past I haven't really had much NRL experience behind me so I was probably talking out of school if I was trying to tell people what to do. But it's definitely a role that I'm looking forward to taking on.
"They're all kids that are going to be pushing really hard the next couple of years and that's what we really need. We've lacked a bit of depth the last two years and we need people chomping at our heels and that's going to happen the next couple of years.
"Phil and Tyronne are great young kids and I look forward to them teaching me and hopefully I can give them a few tips and one day pass my spot on to them."
A popular winner of the award in a week in which he was also named in the NRL Academic Team of the Year, Don became just the second back to win the Paul Broughton Medal and one of the joint winners in the club's inaugural year, Anthony Laffranchi, says he fits the mould of the previous winners perfectly.
"In his speech they asked about his best recollection of the tries that he scored this year and he said the one that Koni scored against the Storm," said Laffranchi, who himself won the club's Outstanding Achievement Award on Wednesday night.
"That's the type of person he is, unselfish, willing to put the team first and is proud and grateful that he gets to pull on the jumper and play professional rugby league.
"This club was built upon the person before the player and 'Boogs' really typifies that.
"You've seen the trend around the Paul Broughton Medal winners, they are the guys who are always willing to put in and put their body on the line for the club.
"They don't expect any rewards but at the end of the year they tend to be the ones who do win the majority of the awards."
It's the high point in a career that almost didn't ever get going following two failed trials with the Manly under-20s and although he tried to maintain his composure, Don conceded that the moment did almost get to him.
"I tried to hide it but I got quite emotional on stage just thinking of all the sacrifices my mum and dad made and my wife Samantha," Don admitted.
"Two times I trialled with the Manly under-20s and didn't play too good and didn't get picked up so at that moment in my life I kind of realised that I wasn't going to make it as an NRL player and I kind of moved on and got on with my life.
"It's probably something I'll look back on at the end of my career as a really good achievement."