Queensland Under 18 winger Xavier Coates grew up playing club footy with Brisbane Broncos half Tom Dearden at the Currumbin Eagles and is now inspired to follow in the teenager’s footsteps.
Coates, contracted to the Broncos, has watched Dearden ascend from Palm Beach Currumbin High star last year to become the first choice half at the Broncos.
It is a remarkable rise and even more poignant for Coates considering he is also 18 years of age, like his good mate Dearden.
"I played with Tommy Dearden at the Currumbin Eagles in the under 16s and it is a pretty cool moment seeing one of my mates play first grade now and killing it," Coates said.
"Tommy has set the standard for us and shown that an 18-year-old can play at a high level in first grade and go really well.
"Seeing that gives me an aspiration to be like him and train as hard as he does because he really deserves it. He is going really well in his games and you can see that with the results the Broncos are getting.
"At the Eagles he was really good at setting me up for tries too."
Coates is well on track to follow in the footsteps of Dearden, who played under 18s for Queensland last year.
Well over six feet, the barnstorming winger is in hot form ahead of the showdown with New South Wales' Under 18 side at Suncorp Stadium on June 5.
Coates played for Tweed Seagulls in the Auswide Bank Mal Meninga Cup competition this year and scored a double in his side’s win in the national final against the Illawarra Steelers. One of those tries was a 90-metre one, where he ran around six players to score.
Coates, who can play wing or centre, has trained alongside Queensland Maroons winger Corey Oates at the Broncos, where he has learned plenty.
"Corey is a big body and he can get up and catch the high balls, and that is what I have aspired to do with my height – to use my athleticism to get up and catch the ball, as well as he does and use my speed to come in and take the hard runs like he does," Coates said.
"I do one-off sessions at the Broncos whenever they need me to come in. I take a lot out of them and bring that back to the emerging squad that I am a part of at the Broncos.
"I did a couple of sessions in pre-season and got a lot of knowledge from them. I’ve got another two years after this one with the Broncos. They told me at the start of the year and it is an unreal feeling to be at a club that wants you and wants to develop you as a player."
The Broncos showed their hand at how much they value Coates when they gave him his senior club debut in the trial win over Souths Logan Magpies in Warwick back in February.
"It was my first game for the Broncos and a pretty surreal moment," Coates said.
"You never really think about it. You just go through the motions at training and hope for the best and when (Anthony Seibold) told me I was playing, I was pretty excited and told the family.
"They made the trip from the Gold Coast to Warwick to watch me play.
"I was pretty lucky. Coming into the game I thought I might get 10 minutes and just a feel for it, but I had 30 minutes at centre and was lucky to get a meat pie.
"It was a pretty good experience and I got to play with boys I’d admired growing up like Payne Haas, Tanah Boyd, Tom Dearden and some other big names."
Coates went to school at Marymount College in Burleigh - one not known for its rugby league program. It is where he learned to enjoy his footy with his good mates in a team that punched above its weight.
"We actually had a pretty decent side considering the circumstances and it was a good school to go to,” Coates said.
Born in Papua New Guinea, he is a diehard Queenslander steeped in Maroons tradition with retired legend Greg Inglis one of his idols.
"Watching him play Origin and how much effort and dedication he put in, and how much leadership he showed, is an inspiration to be like him," Coates said.
Coates is studying at Griffith University to be a teacher and training at the Broncos, a club he insists will get the best out of him.
"I’m sure that the Broncos will guide me along a path that is beneficial for my future years to come," Coates said.
Match: QLD U18s v NSW U18s
Round 1 -
Venue: Suncorp Stadium