Toby Sexton's 2019 can be best described in three words... footy, footy and more footy.
The mammoth season of success - which included winning the Auswide Bank Mal Meninga Cup and National Under 18 Championship with Tweed, Allan Langer Trophy with Palm Beach Currumbin and a call-up to the Australian Schoolboys - culminated in a three-year deal with the Gold Coast Titans and straight into an NRL pre-season.
However, last year was a stark contrast to the whirlwind journey experienced in 2019. Sexton only played a grand total of 70 minutes of football for the Tweed Seagulls in the Hastings Deering Colts due to cancellation of the competition due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite the lack of game time, the up-and-coming halfback feels the break was a blessing in disguise to find his feet in the elite rugby league arena.
"After the first round, corona came around and because we were in the bubble here and the boys were playing first grade, that was the only game I got for the year, which was tough. But it was kind of a good thing as well because I could just slow down my whole development and there was no pressure on me to perform," Sexton said.
"At first, it was a bit frustrating as a young fella getting through pre-season. I just wanted to play footy, but towards the back of it, I saw the benefits of it and I think it’s been the best thing for me moving forward to this year.
"I didn't have that pressure of having to perform on a week-to-week basis and trying to maintain weight off the field because being fresh out of school, it’s been such a big step up coming here so I kind of enjoyed [not playing].
"I was in a pretty good environment as well. I didn’t have to work, I was here full-time."
Even though the break was good for the Gold Coast junior, it was still tough to sit on the sideline.
"It's something I definitely missed last year, just playing 'cause that’s what you enjoy," Sexton said.
"Getting through pre-season is the hard bit, playing footy is the easy bit.
"I was looking forward to doing that [playing footy], but it didn’t happen. At the end of the day, it was kind of a good thing for me though I reckon."
In the final weeks of pre-season training before trials, Sexton feels the shorter conditioning period due to last year's later finish has allowed him to be fresher for the season ahead.
"It’s been really good actually. I’m feeling really fresh and feeling good," Sexton said.
"It’s been good as well because it’s been shorter due to corona and the season finishing later. With the shorter pre-season, your body is definitely fresher.
"I’ve put on a few kilos – I’m up at 86 [kilograms] now which is definitely going to help me in the long run and I’m feeling really confident going into the season."
Not having even debuted in the Intrust Super Cup yet, the youngster is wanting to take this season one step at a time, focusing on gaining experience in the second tier competition before anything else.
"I just have to take it slow and not really think too much into the future," Sexton said.
"I think I’ve just got to try and get through the trials first and impress and start playing a bit of Cup because I still haven’t played a game of Intrust Super Cup yet.
"I’ve got to get used to playing against men on a week-to-week basis and just see where you’re at on that week-to-week basis."
In an added boost to Sexton's year ahead, the 19-year-old is extremely excited to have former Gold Coast halfback Brad Davis join the Titans' coaching staff after playing under the esteemed coach at Palm Beach Currumbin.
"I came all the way through school with him from Grade 8 to 12 and to see him here now, it’s unreal," Sexton said.
"It’s only going to help me as an individual being an ex-halfback and we’ve got a pretty good relationship off the field as well, so it’s pretty good having him here."
The Titans will face-off against Burleigh in their first trial match of the year on Friday, February 19 at Pizzey Park.