Elliott Speed arrived at the Tweed Seagulls last November on a train and trial, hopeful he could just do enough to earn a place in the Hastings Deering Colts top 30.
Nine months on and Speed is starting halfback and a minor premiership winner.
The Tweed under 21s cemented top spot for the 2023 season in the final regular round, first notching up a solid win over the Sunshine Coast Falcons on Saturday and then nervously watching on as the second-placed Brisbane Tigers tried to run down a 50-point differential on the Sunday.
And while the Tigers managed to get the win over Wynnum Manly Seagulls, they couldn’t close the gap between them and Tweed.
“On the Saturday, it was a tough game,” Speed said of the weekend just gone.
“We had to tough that one out and get the win and we didn’t know until Sunday if we had it.
“We were all on edge a bit and watched the game on Sunday. Luckily the other team held on and we got the minor premiership. All the boys were super psyched.
“The boys worked really hard all year. It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster with players coming in and out and injuries and what not.
“But that’s the first box ticked and the next one is in the pipeline.”
Speed, who started playing rugby league at the age of six for the Grafton Ghosts, kicked off his Colts career with the Western Clydesdales.
The now 21-year-old moved from his hometown of Grafton to Toowoomba when he was just about to turn 19, playing his first year in Queensland at the Newtown Lions under the guidance of his father, Col Speed.
In 2022, he then got picked up to play with the Clydesdales in what was a tough season. The Colts side only managed one win all year and finished up at the bottom of the ladder.
But for Speed, out of that hardship came a new opportunity after Tweed’s head of football – and now Cup coach – Dave Penna reached out.
“The move to Tweed... It was an opportunity that Dave Penna threw up,” he said.
“It’s something I couldn’t pass up. It was just a train and trial to see how I go. But it was also an opportunity to change jobs, to change lifestyle and to move to the Gold Coast.
“I hadn’t secured anything. It was just a chance to do a preseason and see how I went. Now I’m a minor premier. It’s crazy.”
Speed – a former plumbing apprentice who now works in disability support – feels right at home at Tweed.
He said from the coaching staff down to the players, it is like a “massive family”, and the playmaker believes his football has continued to thrive under the guidance of Colts coach, Aaron Zimmerle.
“I’ve learnt a lot more about my role as I get older,” Speed said.
“There’s a lot of young boys in this team and as an older 21-year-old, they need a bit of that guidance. I’ve been through the ups and downs, especially coming from a team that couldn’t win last year.
“I know what it takes to win now. It’s a lot of hard work behind-the-scenes, a lot of video and tackle technique that Zimmo has instilled in us.
“For me this year, I just wanted to make the top 30. From there I wanted to cement my spot in that No.7 role and I think I have done that.
“I watch a lot of video on who we’re playing and what we do. I’m moulding into it… Zimmo’s instilled a lot of hard work in us boys.”
Match: Seagulls v Bears
Finals Week 1 -
Venue: UAA Park, Gold Coast
And that hard work is set to continue for Tweed over the next month, with the Colts squad firmly focused on their next goal.
While the minor premiership was a big achievement for the club, Speed said they know the job is only halfway done.
They will kick off their finals campaign this Saturday when they take on fourth-placed Burleigh at UAA Park from 6pm.
“We knew we had a really good team from the start – a really, really good squad,” Speed said.
“These are some of the best Colts players in the competition for sure, so we just had to put it together.
“We had to work hard in preseason and tick off game by game. The first big focus was the minor premiership, but now we turn our attention to the bigger picture.
“We will acknowledge the win and then we’ll take it game by game from now on.”
As for Speed, regardless of what happens for the rest of this year, he will continue that hard work behind the scenes and on the field.
He will graduate from the Colts system following the end of the 2023 season and he has his sights set on a big future.
“The big goal is NRL but you have to go step-by-step and the next goal is Cup,” Speed said.
“Hopefully it’s here in Tweed. I can’t see anywhere else than this club. This club is awesome. The people are too good to leave.”