In the space of 56 days, Xavier Coates played five superb games to progress from the under 18s to an NRL debut, three years after almost quitting the game in disillusionment to pursue an athletics career.
Storm premiership winner Matt Geyer coached the 18-year-old Broncos flyer at the Currumbin Eagles and Marymount College, where he teaches and is a co-leader of the school’s rugby league program.
"It was not like he could never play the game. He was always either my player of the year or up there with the best player," Geyer told NRL.com.
"When he’d done 15s he was going to quit footy. Xavier was a bit dejected and despondent about not being able to make the local rep teams. He was always a strong centre or fullback and when he was selected they would put him on the wing.
"He was going to quit rugby league and concentrate on athletics because he was a triple-jump, high jump and long jump champion as well. I bet that doesn’t surprise you … but luckily for us and all the NRL fans he chose the league path.
"We ultimately got Xavier back for another year in under 16s. As a young kid he was a bit of a gazelle and an athlete but he got a bit of aggro into his game.
"In that year in under 16s he just took off. He found he could use his size and strength to be more dominant. From them on he had the NRL clubs come knocking in his door and the rest is history."
Broncos v Warriors - Round 17
His rise in 2019 has been extraordinary.
The fantastic five fixtures
Coates scores two tries, including a 90-metre sizzler, as Tweed Seagulls beat the Illawarra Steelers 48-14 in the under 18s national final while playing at centre.
In his Intrust Super Cup debut, he plays on the wing and scores another double in the Seagulls’ 30-14 victory over Northern Pride.
In the under 18s State of Origin clash at Suncorp Stadium, he scores a try, runs for 218m and makes 10 tackle breaks and two line breaks as a winger in the 34-12 thumping of NSW. He is named man of the match.
Coates is called into the PNG Kumuls side and makes his Test debut at centre in the 24-6 loss to Samoa where he defends like a demon.
In his NRL debut for Brisbane on the wing, Coates leaps high to score a cracking try in the 24-22 victory over Cronulla.
When interest came from club scouts, the Broncos won the battle for his signature, but Geyer had a chuckle when he said "believe it or not I tried to take him to another club first".
The Storm legend conceded the right decision was made.
"His father is his guiding light and he had a manager, so I thought it was best that they make decisions like that. He signed when he was 16 or 17 and I see the benefit in staying close to home near a tight-knit family," Geyer said.
"When Xavier signed with the Broncos I think it was a junior contract and then it was like the blood in the water. He went crazy, trained really hard, became really committed and put on a bit of size. The best thing about him is his coachability.
"When you talk to him he is looking you in the eye and nodding his head. He is not distracted and is taking in every word.
"On top of all that, the years of being rejected gave him that burning passion to prove to himself and others that he was good enough. Hence, that lends itself to his boom. That is because every time he has gone to that new level he wants to go again, and every level he has gone to he has handled with aplomb."
Coates announces himself in the NRL with a beauty
At training last week Broncos coach Anthony Seibold waved a pink swimming noodle at Coates as he took attacking bomb after bomb put up by Sean O’Sullivan.
It brought back memories of watching Israel Folau at Brisbane training years ago but Geyer is reluctant to put those tags on Coates, who has been named on the wing for Saturday's clash with the Warriors at ANZ Stadium.
"I read the other day that the Broncos have Cory Paix, the next Cooper Cronk, but I am really reluctant to throw Folau, Greg Inglis and names like that at these young kids because in the end Xavier is only 12 months away from being no-one. Here we are calling him the next big thing," Geyer said.
Luckily for us and all the NRL fans he chose the league path.Matt Geyer
"In saying that, Xavier has got a really good head on his shoulders. The great thing is that you tell him to do something and he will either do it or try and do it."
Coates’s rise is a great feather in the cap for Marymount College. On the Gold Coast, the school is surrounded by powerhouse outfits Palm Beach Currumbin High and Keebra Park High, but still manages to punch above its weight.
"Unfortunately, and fortunately, it has taken someone like Xavier to get us on the map. I have been there for five years with Jason Hamilton, who has been running the rugby league program for 13 years, and we take a lot of pride in our rugby league exploits," Geyer said.
"We do everything out of school. We don’t have a rugby league subject, and we don’t want one. We want our kids to make sacrifices to be part of rugby league because it gives them a great sense of what is to come.
"Education and character are well before rugby league and if they don’t tick the first couple of boxes they miss out on playing.
"We have produced many a great young man. Xavier is one of them and we are proud to say he is one of ours. His dad went to Marymount … you don’t get much more Marymount than Xavier."
Geyer is invested in his former student's future in more ways than one.
"The biggest thrill for me is that he is best mates with my son Cole, and they have been for 10 years," Geyer said.
"After he made his NRL debut he rang my son and said 'let’s go out for dinner and I’ll shout you chicken parmigiana'. He was straight back to his family and friends because he is a fantastic kid who knows where his values are. Whatever success he gets he thoroughly deserves, and now that he has only tasted it for a short time he is going to want more."