The rise of halfback Jamal Fogarty in the NRL arena this season may have come as a surprise to some rugby league followers, but definitely not to Intrust Super Cup fans – and certainly not to Gold Coast Titans assistant coach Jimmy Lenihan.
Lenihan saw first-hand what the 2019 Petero Civoniceva Medal winner could do at Burleigh Bears, including playing a vital role in guiding the side to last year’s grand final win.
“I was so happy, really just so happy for him,” Lenihan said of the way Fogarty was able to make his mark in the NRL this year after first making his debut with the club in 2017.
“I know how much hard work he puts into what he does, not just on the football field, but off the football field, and whether or not he thought there was still light at the end of the tunnel; the way he just kept playing and created his own opportunities.
“For someone to not be a part of an NRL side and do a pre-season (with them), and then end up at some point being a captain through the year is a massive achievement and transition that certainly, quite easily, could be overwhelming, but Jamal just took it in his stride and did a great job.
“I think the longer the year went on, the more confidence he got.
“Hopefully next year, he can just keep building on what he’s done this year.”
The steady rise of the Titans was one of this season’s good news stories and Lenihan was pleased with the way the players were able to grow their confidence and build their performances.
In his first season working with new head coach Justin Holbrook and fellow assistant coach Jim Dymock, Lenihan said he had enjoyed the opportunity learn.
“Really enjoyed it, it was a good experience having a go at the NRL this year,” Lenihan said.
“Certainly the way we finished the year was really pleasing, to win five in a row, so it was a good positive way to end the year, but we certainly have a lot of hard work to do next year.
“As an assistant to Justin, I was doing a little bit more of the attack side of what we do at the club, Jimmy Dymock does a lot of the defence and Justin oversees everything.
“(On game days I was on) the other end of the two-way on the bench, so Justin speaks down to me and I relay the messages out to whoever needs them.
“The (other coaches) were really good, Justin is really down-to-earth, an easy-to-speak-to sort of guy, so that made my job really easy.
“Jimmy Dymock is exactly the same, you know, he’s obviously been a legend rugby league player in his time and for the guy he is and the reputation he has in the game, he certainly is a knock-about sort of bloke.
“Both of them made my time really easy at the Titans to get into and find my feet and they really helped me along really well.
“I think the way Justin built everyone up, I thought was really good at the club, he gave everyone a clean slate at the start; there was no one coming in with any sort of predetermined ideas of who they were or how they had been before... and whatever happened was always a new start, so I thought that was really good.
“I thought the way Jim and Justin really got our defence worked out – it took a little while and it took a little while to get the right people in the right places – but certainly once we got a group that was playing for each other by the end of it, we were defending really well and right at the back end of the year, we took a few steps forward with what we were doing with the ball as well.
“Defence was certainly the biggest thing we had to clean up and I think we started getting a lot better at the end and once your defence works, it is easier for the ball to translate and get a bit better as well.”
As well as Fogarty, another player who found form this year was his halves partner Ash Taylor, who spent time in the 2019 season with Tweed Seagulls, rediscovering his confidence and love of the game.
“I think having Jamal there just helped ease the pressure on Ash as well and it just allowed Ash to play his natural role,” Lenihan said.
“Organising and talking is quite natural for Jamal and playing eyes-up footy is really natural for Ash, so when they can sort of use each other to do each other’s natural work, it helped the other one do what they did naturally really well.
“So by the end of the year, Ash is running the football like he’s never run for a long time and he was scoring length-of-the-field tries which was great to see and I think the whole combination of Jamal, Ash, even AJ (Brimson) and Mitch Rein by the end of it was really good, the spine started really getting together.”
This year has been an unusual year for the players, and a tough one, especially for those who under normal circumstances would have been getting their football fix in the Intrust Super Cup.
While some, like Treymain Spry, were able to make their NRL debuts and performed well whenever they were called upon, with the competition called off and the players in the NRL squads required to live under NRL bubble protocols, the attitude of the ‘fringe players’ at training became especially important.
“It was really difficult (for the players), and a lot of our opposed sessions during the week was the highlight of their week, that was their game of footy against us,” Lenihan said.
“We had them playing the way our opposition would play that week and they did a really good job of that, but certainly they are all football players who want to play football.
“We had little competitions in the club, because everyone is competitive.
“Hopefully next year we can have players going back to Intrust super Cup clubs and slowly getting their fix of football and getting the kilometres in their legs and getting their fitness going so that when they are called upon, they are ready to play.
“There’s plenty of blokes who didn’t play any games for us this year and it’s very important what they were doing for us, because what they do for us during the week in opposed sessions is what helps us get better as a team to run out and play against our opposition on the weekend so everyone played a really important role in the success of the club.”
From Tweed to Titans - Treymain Spry highlights
The Titans finished the season with a club record five straight wins; a positive way to show just how far the club had come since posting their first victory of the season back in Round 4 against Wests Tigers.
“Winning is hard, and certainly winning five in a row,” Lenihan said.
“To win one, it took a long time to get over the mental blocks of just trying to win one and to win ugly.
“I think sometimes the ugly wins are the most important ones, when you are not really playing great, but you are still able to scrap out a win and they are really important.
“I think the confidence slowly grew the more we started playing better, whether we won or lost.
“There were other times this year, we go close to the Roosters and really got close to Penrith, couldn’t quite get over the line, but to finish the way we did, to win five at any time in the NRL is certainly difficult, and we were certainly happy with the way we finished.
“We don’t feel we’ve walked out (of the season) as winners, but we have put ourselves in a good position to try harder for next year.”
QRL 2019 to NRL 2020
- 2019 – It was an outstanding year for the Petero Civoniceva Medal winner who helped guided the Bears to the premiership title. Fogarty played 26 games for the Bears, scoring six tries and 95 goals; as well as producing 22 try assists.
- 2020 – Fogarty started the year with the Bears, scoring a try in their Round 1 win. After signing with the Titans, he played 18 games, scoring three tries. In a huge honour, Fogarty captained the side in the later part of the season.
- 2019 – The Queensland Under 20 representative played 20 games for Tweed Seagulls last season, crossing for nine tries.
- 2020 – The rising young star made his NRL debut in Round 9 and played in five games overall for the Titans, scoring a try and producing three try assists.
- 2019 – In his 10 games for the Titans in 2019, the former Bronco produced six try assists. Taylor also played six games with Tweed and scored a try and kicked one goal.
- 2020 – A rejuvenated Taylor played 19 games for the Titans, scoring three tries and producing 12 try assists. He made 1121 total running metres in a strong season.
- 2019 – Don played in 17 games for the Titans where he crossed for eight tries. During his seven games for the Bears, the winger ran in five tries.
- 2020 – One of the club’s most popular players, Don played in 16 games for the Titans, scoring 10 tries.
- 2019 – In Stone’s three games for the Bears, he scored one try and made 56 tackles. He also played eight games for the Titans.
- 2020 – Stone recently re-signed with the Titans for the 2021 season after a strong 2020 with the club which saw him play in nine games where he scored three tries and made 342 tackles.
- 2019 – A mid-season signing from the Broncos to the Titans, Boyd played in a number of QRL competitions for a number of teams including Hastings Deering Colts for Souths Logan Magpies and Gold Coast A Grade for the Bears. Boyd played in eight Intrust Super Cup games for the Magpies and four for Burleigh. Boyd made his NRL debut in Round 24 and played two games for the Titans.
- 2020 – Boyd played in Burleigh’s opening round win against Wynnum Manly Seagulls, producing one try assist. The junior Queensland representative player featured in 13 games for the Titans, scoring a try and producing one try assist.
- 2019 – Playing in four games for the Bears in 2019, Whitbread crossed for two tries. For the Titans, Whitbread featured in 18 games and made 17 tackle breaks.
- 2020 – Whitbread played in nine games for the Titans in season 2020 and made 207 tackles for the club.
- 2019 – Last year, Sami played two games for the Bears where he ran for a total of 269 metres. In his 15 games for the Titans, he scored six tries.
- 2020 – The flying winger had a good strike rate of seven tries in 13 games for the Titans in the NRL this season.
- 2019 – For the Tweed Seagulls, the former Dragon played five games in the Intrust Super Cup. He played 18 games for the Titans where he scored one try and produced one try assist.
- 2020 – In his nine games for the Titans in 2020, Rein scored two tries and worked hard in defence making a total of 362 tackles.
- 2019 – Hipgrave played in one game for Tweed Seagulls, and seven games for the Gold Coast where he made a total of 459 running metres.
- 2020 – In his 13 games for the Gold Coast, the former Queensland Under 20 forward scored three tries and made 16 tackle breaks.
- 2020 – Featuring for the Bears in Round 1 of the competition, the former New Zealand Warrior made 18 tackles and 90 running metres. For the Titans, Clark played in 10 games for five wins and five losses, producing one try assist.