Brian Kelly Ahead Of The Curve
He was thrust into the Titans' NRL pre-season program to fast-track his development but such has been the manner in which Brian Kelly has handled the step up in class that he is shaping up as a Round 1 bolter.
Devoid of centres with regular first grade experience following the departure of James Roberts and a knee injury to Nene Macdonald, Gold Coast coach Neil Henry has the option of naming two debutants in their first game against the Knights.
Former Australian Schoolboy Nathan Davis is set to be handed the role of right centre after some strong pre-season displays while Kelly is now pushing the experienced Josh Hoffman for first crack on the left.
A troublesome knee injury has kept Hoffman sidelined for the entire pre-season and while he and Henry are both confident he will be fit to take his place in the side, Kelly has built a compelling case for inclusion.
Superb for the Titans in their charge to the semi-finals at the Downer NRL Auckland Nines, the 19-year-old has impressed senior members of the Titans squad with his performances against the Eels and Rabbitohs in the past fortnight.
After scoring his side's first try on Saturday, Kelly had no qualms throwing himself into an attempted tackle on Rabbitohs skipper Greg Inglis and although he came off second best, it was another positive step in his development.
"He's come a long way even in the three months of pre-season," said Titans co-captain William Zillman.
"He's talking a lot more and from the back you can tell he's a smart footballer and he's strong as well. He's got a very strong carry and I thought he was strong defensively.
"He's got all the attributes there and he's on a massive learning curve but doing it quite well."
Kelly is cautious of declaring himself NRL-ready just yet but admitted that his strong showings in the trial games had done his confidence the world of good.
"I'm much more confident after the two trials," Kelly said.
"I'd still be surprised [to be picked for Round 1], definitely, because I'm still young and still maturing so just got to take it as it comes I guess.
"I'll just keep putting my best foot forward at training and doing the best I can on and off the field.
"I'll just see what happens. Keep training as hard as I can, get the best out of training and it's up to 'Kingy' (Henry) really. I'll just go with what he says."
In his debut season in the under-20s competition last season Kelly made headlines when he scored four tries for New South Wales in the under-20s Origin match, the first person to ever score four tries in an Origin game.
He started the season at fullback before switching between wing and centre as the season progressed but whether in the NRL or Holden Cup will start 2016 in the centres.
"It's all experience for him," said Henry. "Josh Hoffman should be right for Round 1, Nene is probably going to be out, I thought Nathan Davis has put his hand up a little bit for that right edge but we'll have to wait and see.
"Brian is certainly gaining in confidence. He's handling the speed and the physicality of first grade and as a kid in our 20s he's certainly got a lot of promise."
This article first appeared on NRL.com