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Liyou gunning for NRL opportunity as Titans affiliates meet for first time

This Saturday’s Hostplus Cup clash between the Ipswich Jets and Tweed Seagulls is setting the stage for the next generation of NRL stars, as the two teams meet for the first time under the new Gold Coast Titans affiliate model.

The Jets this year have joined the Seagulls as one of the Titans’ feeder clubs, with the benefits of the system already helping Ipswich to their first win in over a year and also to a couple of close battles with heavyweights like the Redcliffe Dolphins and Burleigh Bears.

And as the two affiliates prepare for the highly-anticipated showdown, there are already plenty of talking points.

Not only is the match being played as an NRL curtain raiser at Cbus Super Stadium, but Tanah Boyd was last week dropped back to the Jets and will don the green and white again this weekend while the lock battle between Ipswich’s Joe Stimson and Tweed’s Jacob Alick is shaping up to be an enticing one.

For others, such as Titans development forward Ben Liyou, this weekend’s clash is also the perfect chance to show Gold Coast coach Des Hasler what he is capable of.

The 23-year-old – who was previously affiliated with Tweed - missed the 2023 season as he recovered from an ACL injury.

His return to the field this season has seen him play two games with Ipswich so far, coming off the bench against Redcliffe and Burleigh.

And he knows Saturday’s clash will be another chance to put his best foot forward as he works towards his goal of playing NRL this year.

“I’ve been loving it since coming back,” Liyou said.

“Rehab is definitely a very challenging time… it’s very isolating. I was pretty lucky to have a few boys in there with me in Beau Fermor and Aaron Booth for the whole year.

“But watching the boys play and knowing you can’t make a contribution, that’s also a very tough part of rehab.

“It’s good to get through it and finally get back out on the field.

“I just want to start playing some quality footy at Cup level... Just to try and bring some aggression, whether that’s from the bench or starting.

“I want to get back into a starting role and start getting some big minutes and make a good contribution in the front row.

“I’ve been relatively happy with what I’ve done on the field so far, I just want to do some more of it, get more quantity in.

“Ultimately the goal is to crack an NRL debut sometime this year.”

Liyou has been named on the bench once again for his meeting with his old club.

He said there’s now players at both clubs that he knew from his time with Tweed, not to mention all the other Titans affiliates named across both sides.

Brayden McGrady from Tweed and Ben Liyou from Ipswich. Photo: Cam Stallard/Gold Coast Titans
Brayden McGrady from Tweed and Ben Liyou from Ipswich. Photo: Cam Stallard/Gold Coast Titans

Seagulls coach Dave Penna said the rivalry between the two clubs, plus the presence of players hoping to progress to the NRL, would certainly add to this weekend’s showdown.

“There’s probably half a dozen players across both teams that really have a point to prove,” he said.

“The Titans are working really, really hard. They have a lot of injuries at the moment and with injuries, younger players get opportunities.

“This weekend is a great opportunity for them to put their hands up and show Des and Ben (Cross) and myself where they want to be and how they need to play.”

The Seagulls and Jets have one win apiece from the opening five weeks of competition, with Tweed two spots above Ipswich on the ladder with the help of a bye.

Jets coach Ben Cross is hopeful his side can get the edge this weekend however, especially as they head into a bye round themselves.

Cross has seen lots of promising signs as his squad continues to develop and the Titans affiliate players integrate themselves into the team.

“They’ve brought into everything we’re doing really well,” he said.

“We’ve only had five training sessions and five games but they’re bringing their families to the games, they’re coming up and carpooling to training, they’re hanging around and want to spend time at the club a little bit longer than what’s needed.

“That’s always a good sign. They’re interacting with our contracted players really well. They’re on our What’s App group and making banter as well.

“There seems to be a good transition as they come in and our guys are accepting of them as well.

“This weekend is a great opportunity for our players to take to the NRL field before an NRL game.

“There’s a healthy rivalry there. We have a lot of respect for Tweed. There will be a bit of rivalry on the field, they’ll probably know each other’s games pretty well but we’re looking forward to clashing with a well-coached side, a well-drilled side."

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