HOMECOMING: Ghosts juniors out to impress for Titans
RUGBY LEAGUE: Two of the Clarence Valley's promising rugby league prospects will get a North Coast homecoming this weekend as the Gold Coast Titans elite development squad hosts two matches against Newcastle Knights at Coffs Harbour.
Grafton Ghosts juniors Ben Liyou and Jake Martin both made the move up to the Gold Coast in November to join the club's development system and link up with Tweed Heads Seagulls in the Mal Meninga Cup (under-18s).
After two months of intense pre-season training, the pair will get their second chance to pull on the Titans strip when they join forces against the Knights on Sunday.
While the match will be a friendly pre-season contest, Liyou said neither team would be willing to give an inch to its opponent.
"I am really keen for the game. We know it is going to be a tough one,” he said.
"Newcastle have always been strong in the junior ranks, and this clash will give them a chance to flex that muscle.
"It is definitely nerve wracking pulling on the Titans jersey. There is a lot of pressure to perform on the field, most of it internal but the coaches are looking for us to perform.”
While the Mal Meninga Cup pre-season does not officially start for another month, Liyou said the Titans coaches had not taken it easy on any of the development players.
"It has not been easy. The standard of training is definitely a long way above what we were doing at the Ghosts,” he said. "There is also a lot of pressure to perform at your best.”
The under-18s ranks have already had one opposed session with the Titans first grade squad which Liyou missed while holidaying overseas, but it is understood it was not the only opportunity the side will get against the top grade this pre-season. For Martin, who will likely line up in the centres against the Knights, the nerves have kicked in ahead of the tough trial.
"This is only my second time wearing a Titans jersey and it is a big occasion each time,” he said.
"Also all of my family and friends will be there to watch so there is a bit of added pressure. It's not daunting, it is just really exciting and also nerve wracking at the same time.”
The games have been welcomed by the Coffs Harbour Comets club with president Steve Gooley admitting it was a rare chance for people on the North Coast to witness rugby league of the highest quality.
"The Comets are proud and very fortunate to have been asked to host what is going to be two fantastic games of rugby league this Sunday,” he said.
"Both sides will be full of quality young players all vying to one day be given the chance to play in the NRL.”
The under-16s play at 2pm and the under-18s at 4pm.