Titans prop goes out of his way to visit Maclean
MACLEAN Public School Year 6 students Cooper Many, Lachlan Essex, Corby Tunks and Liam Ward will sleep well tonight.
They've just completed a training session with Gold Coast Titans prop Luke Douglas.
Footy in hand, they sit in a row on a grandstand hanging out with their giant local hero.
It's not the first time they've thrown a footy with "Dougie" - he's popped in a couple of times during the season to lend a hand for his childhood friend Luke Many, who coaches the Lower Clarence Magpies under-12s.
Many brought the four boys down to Yamba Sports Complex to watch the Titans train.
It's the first time Yamba has seen an entire NRL squad going through the motions.
"Have you guys played on this field?" Douglas asks the quartet as men in sky blue and white charge around it.
"Heaps of times," they chorus.
Many points out he and Douglas played for Lower Clarence under-18s at Yamba Oval.
"I've never played at this ground," Douglas says.
"But I learnt to drive here.
"Dad levelled all this before they built it. So we'd come down here and I'd learn how to ease off the clutch and push down the accelerator."
Baking in the North Coast sun, it's a long way from northern England, where Douglas was based with the Scottish team in the Rugby League World Cup.
He's just rejoined the Titans squad. But he didn't have to until December. He would not have either - except he knew how much this once-in-a-lifetime visit would mean to the youngsters in the area.
"I've been asking to get the team down here to the schools," the former Maclean High student adds.
"It's so close, only two hours away and we never saw many NRL players down here when I was growing up.
"I can remember the two times guys have come - a couple of Broncos came once and a few Saints another time. To have the whole squad here is awesome."
Titans winger Kevin Gordon flies past. With his flowing locks at the head of the bunch he's impossible to miss. He's also impossible to catch as his team mates curse under their breath nearing the completion of another 800-metre timed run.
The wide-eyed boys watch in awe.
"It makes you realise how hard they train," observes Lachlan.
They all agree it would be hard work to keep this up in the heat all summer long.
But that's what it's going to take to stand any chance come round one in three months' time. The Titans know their opposition is training just as hard at other venues around the country.
As the small group sits contentedly in silence it's obvious Douglas is just happy to be back where it all began.
It's been 12 months without a break. His team mates have all had an eight-week holiday and have been back training for the past four weeks. Douglas is noticeably leaner than his peers.
At the end, rather than the start, of his preparation.
He said he planned to stay an extra night in the area before following the rest of the squad to the Coffs pre-season training camp.
"I might head down Tuesday night. "They probably don't want me to get straight into training. They probably want me to take a bit of a rest.
"I won't do too much work on my legs, but it would be good to do some weights with the boys.
"First, I'm having a hit of golf tomorrow at Royal Maclean."