MATTHEWS A TOUGH YOUNG TITAN
|Will Matthews ready to play NRL
LEGENDARY hitman Trevor `The Axe' Gillmeister likes the toughness about baby-faced rookie Titan Will Matthews.
"He is young, but he is hard and he is tough," said the Gold Coast club's assistant coach.
"You can't coach toughness, you just hope that your players have it.
"What I like about this kid is that he has come from the bush, gone straight into the Queensland Cup and been able to handle that level.
"He just seems to be one of those kids who can handle whatever you throw at him. It is still very early days yet but I think he has the attributes to go all the way."
From Kyogle, just an hour and a half's drive south of the Gold Coast, the big 19-year-old forward is a living example of what the Titans birth was all about -- keeping talented young footballers close to home.
"The fact that I am still near home is extremely important," said Matthews.
"You hear so many stories of kids going to Sydney and not being able to cope.
It's great being so close to family and their support. I still hear from Mum every week and see them every few weeks."
Matthews moved to the Gold Coast last year so that he could be part of the rugby league program at Palm Beach Currumbin State High School.
While there he played schoolboy rep football with another young giant, the Brisbane Broncos human wrecking ball David Taylor.
While Taylor went on to play NRL this year, Matthews starred at a tier below, for Tweed Heads Seagulls in the Queensland Cup.
Although Taylor has impressed with his size and raw power, there are also plenty of good judges who are talking up Matthews' ball skills.
"He certainly is big enough, in fact he will be losing a few kilos with us, but he has some very good skills with his hands," says Gillmeister.
"I have seen a fair bit of him and, just like Carty (head coach John Cartwright), I have a high opinion of him.
"He has that ability to get a ball away. It will come down to the trials when we see how he goes. But we are not scared to toss a few of the younger blokes in and see how they go."
Matthews is relishing his chance to train alongside some of the biggest names in the NRL -- Scott Prince, Luke Bailey and Mat Rogers -- however he is also careful not to get carried away with the atmosphere.
"I just want to keep my head on and stay focused," he said.
"I want a big off-season, not get ahead of myself, hopefully play a couple of the trials, maybe a first grade game. But we will see what happens."
Criticised for being too small in their debut season, the Titans certainly do not have that problem for 2008 with a much bigger bunch of forwards, meaning Matthews has some big opposition for a spot in the pack.
He said playing against open age footballers for the first time this year was not too huge a leap and he wants to test his body against the best.
"It is certainly not a case of fear, but the speed and physical side (of the Queensland Cup) took a little while to get used to," said Matthews.
"But I don't doubt myself at NRL level. I think I will be able to handle it.
"The atmosphere at training has been great. I look up to people like 'Bails' (co-captain Luke Bailey) and take notice of whatever he has to say. But all the older blokes have been very supportive and really look after the younger guys."
Matthews said his ideal role on a football field would be as a ball-playing backrower, like a Sonny Bill Williams or Steve Menzies.
"I love to throw a pass," he said.
"I don't mind the tough stuff but would like to be more than just straight and hard."
Although Matthews said he loves the Gold Coast and is becoming a 'city boy' he will never able to fully become a Queenslander.
If he progresses to the State of Origin level NSW will always be home.
"That's where I was born. That's who I have always gone for, so that is who I would have to play for," he said.