The Don a prolific scorer for Titans
Record-holding Titans winger Anthony Don's try-scoring achievement is typical of the career of a country kid who not long ago wondered if he might be good enough to play in the Intrust Super Cup – understated.
Don, whose next try will take him past David Mead's tally of 67 for the Gold Coast club, is one of those players who attract the labels of "low maintenance", "reliable" and "modest".
However, for a player who did not make his NRL debut until he was 25 but could end up with 150 appearances and close to 100 tries when his freshly signed two-year deal takes him to his 33rd birthday, his try-scoring record deserved more than being lost in the coaching controversies and finals contenders' fumbles of last weekend.
For the "Don is Good" tale is one of the wholesome stories of the Telstra Premiership that deserves more recognition.
Tall and gangly as a teenager, he could not even make the Grafton Ghosts under-14 run-on side. League took a back seat when he attended university in Newcastle while studying to be a PE teacher and he played rugby union with his mates for the fun of it, while working as a barman at Knights games at McDonald Jones Stadium.
It was only when he returned from uni and scored 302 points for Grafton's A-grade side in 2010, playing fullback, that the man who grew up with the nickname of "Boogie" thought he might be good enough to play a level behind bush footy and set his sights on the Queensland Cup.
He attracted interest from Redcliffe and Norths Devils but they were too far from the beach so he wrote to Burleigh Bears asking for a trial. He starred enough to get a wing spot and after his first season in 2011 he requested, during negotiations for a new contract, that he be given one of the two Bears' allocated pre-season train and trial spots with the Titans.
It did not lead to a basic NRL contract at his first attempt, but after an impressive season for the Bears in 2012, the Titans gave him a modest two-year deal and in round six of 2013, at age 25 years and seven months, he made his debut against Parramatta – scoring the first of his 67 tries for the club.
Last season, Don became the first winger to take the Paul Broughton Medal as Titans' player of the year, and in 2018 – in a season that has produced a career-best 15 tries with two games remaining – his form has been arguably better.
For three seasons, he was stuck on 12 tries, so his 15 is another breakthrough.
Yet, he was offered a pay-cut to extend his stay by two years as the low-maintenance popular clubman was not seen as valuable a priority as higher-profile teammates who will take up a large slab of the salary cap like Ash Taylor, Jarrod Wallace, Tyrone Peachey and Shannon Boyd.
He knocked back more than $60,000 a year more from one Sydney club to stay loyal and, as just as importantly, to stay on the Gold Coast with wife Samantha, a former surf iron woman (nee Johnson) and fellow PE teacher, to plod along as one of the NRL's most polished finishers and high-ball takers.
Rather than take the reduced offer from the Titans as a knock on his ability, typically of Don, he saw the interest of other clubs as he went to the market for the first time as a positive.
Now he is in the box seat to go well ahead of Mead and stand in the Titans' annals for a long time.
Has he stopped to put his unusual climb to such status into perspective?
"I don't really put it in perspective, I don't think a lot about it … I just don't take anything for granted and try to enjoy my place in the team," said the winger who has missed one game in the past two seasons.
"A hundred games is a good achievement because I never thought I'd get to that but scoring a certain amount of tries is not a goal you set; it's more about playing well for the team.
"Don't get me wrong, to get one more try and have the record would be good but I'm just appreciative that I have been able to make a living out of being an NRL player because in my mid-20s I never thought that would ever be the case.
"I'd like to think I'm a good finisher, that's something a winger has to do consistently – you don't get a lot of opportunities in games and you have to be able to convert them, and I'm happy that for most of my career I have been able to do that."
Don conceded he was disappointed with the Titans' initial offer months ago and that's why he considered moving to Sydney.
In the end, the Titans increased their offer and The Don realised his life would be happiest on the Gold Coast, no matter what the income.
"It's a beautiful place to live, Sam has a full-time teaching job, we want to live here long-term and have a house and a lot of friends here," he said.
"I've never taken anything for granted being a first-grader, and to be able to do it here at the Gold Coast – the best place in the world to live.
"Some of the young guys might think it's a tough life and you're judged all the time, and there can definitely be tough times.
"But overall you live a great life compared to someone on the tools all day or in other industries which isn't bad – doing field sessions, getting massages, getting fed and playing a game you love.
"I'll never take for granted what I do. I can genuinely say that at the age when most blokes are at their peak I didn't think I'd play one NRL game let alone over 100. And I do it as a full-time professional and enjoy a great lifestyle around it."
Don and 21-year-old Phillip Sami, on the left wing, have a combined 29 tries with Don holding a one-try advantage over their personal battle that has sparked plenty of banter at training and even during games.
While Don is be easygoing and humble, the 30-year-old certainly doesn't lack ambition – it's just more team related now.
He can be one of the most outspoken in team review sessions and, after missing the Titans' 2016 finals campaign because of a shoulder injury suffered in the second last round, he has real drive to run out for a finals game in the blue, gold and white.
It won't happen this year but he feels it is a realistic goal in 2019 or 2020 – by which time he might have become the first try-scoring century maker in the club's history … then walk away content for the rest of his life as a PE teacher or after completing his Master of Business degree, in the business world.