It’s always a special moment when you get to debut at a higher level in the game – but it’s made even more special when you help cause a boilover victory over a close rival.
This was the case for 17-year-old Tully McLellan in Round 9 of the Hastings Deering Colts, after the Sunshine Coast Falcons playmaker earned a call up and then helped knock the Brisbane Tigers off the top of the table.
The Falcons caused an upset with their one-point win over the previously undefeated Tigers at Totally Workwear Stadium on Sunday.
McLellan - who played in this year’s Auswide Bank Mal Meninga Cup and has been in Sunshine Coast A grade with the Caloundra Sharks - could not wipe the smile off his face afterwards.
“That was unreal,” he said after the game.
“I’ve been working hard to get a spot in this team and the opportunities, they came and I just capitalised.
“I didn’t know until yesterday. Once (the under 18s) season finished, I’ve been training and just hanging around, waiting for an opportunity.”
McLellan started playing rugby league when he was five years old with his sister, Tia, in their hometown of Gympie.
With both showing great promise within the game – and his sister also extending her skillset to rugby union – the family moved to the Sunshine Coast three years ago to help the duo follow their dreams.
Match: Tigers v Falcons
Round 9 -
Venue: Totally Workwear Stadium, Brisbane
“We’re from a massive footy family,” McLellan said.
“Dad and mum, they both love it, dad especially. Growing up watching footy and going to the games and stuff like that, I definitely fell in love with it when I was little.”
The pair have both been in the Falcons system over the past three years, with McLellan starting with the Sunshine Coast in the Cyril Connell Challenge, while Tia played for the Harvey Norman Under 19s.
McLellan is also within the Melbourne Storm system, in the Tornado Development program.
But since earning a promotion to train with the Colts squad, he said he is learning a lot about what it takes to go to the next level.
“It’s definitely a step up from what I’m used to and the intensity at training, it’s something new to me,” he said.
“So I’m learning and training with them has been real helpful for me. The biggest thing (I’ve learnt) is to train how you want to play.
“The intensity levels at training are always top notch. When it comes to games like (Colts) you don’t feel off pace or out of it. Training with these boys has definitely helped my performance.”
McLellan last week received his Colts debut off the back of injuries to regular starting halves Corey Herdegen (hand) and Josh Chappell (ankle), both of whom have had a big impact on him during his time training with the Colts.
“Corey is real helpful, he knows the game a lot,” McLellan said.
“I was a bit nervous when I heard (I was debuting) but he came up to me yesterday and today and he’s been real helpful, telling me to stick to my game and what I’m good at and lead the boys around the best that I can.
“It’s very important to have that, especially being nervous. You start to overthink things and when you have someone to pull you back into line, it’s certainly very helpful.”
McLellan has been named again for this week’s clash with the Western Clydesdales on Sunday.
He doesn’t know how many more opportunities he’ll get in the competition this year once Herdegen and Chappell are back from injury, but he is hopeful of his path forward.
Match: Falcons v Clydesdales
Round 10 -
Venue: Sunshine Coast Stadium, Sunshine Coast
“I’ll keep going to training and hopefully I can get another game or two,” he said.
“I’d love to stay in the system I’m in at the moment with the Falcons, hopefully move down to Melbourne at the end of the year and do a pre-season down there and just keep going through the systems.
“They’re designed for a reason.”