Author : Nick Wright Gold Coast Bulletin
Jaylan De Groot “could not have imagined” his first start in the Langer Trophy would have led to where he is today.
But the combinations he forged within the Palm Beach Currumbin State High School spine have thrust him to the cusp of the NRL alongside the same teammates he suffered a gut-wrenching grand final loss alongside.
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De Groot lined up at fullback in the 2020 side who won the Southeast Queensland schoolboys competition, only to narrowly be defeated by a Kirwan State High outfit featuring current North Queensland Cowboy star Jeremiah Nanai.
It was in that team he played alongside fellow Tweed Colts playmakers Tom Weaver and Oskar Bryant, with the trio all training within the Titans system this year and set to line up this Sunday against Norths Devils at Tugun.
Tweed player Jaylan De Groot. Picture, John Gass
Nanai on that day in Townsville would go on to score a breathtaking double in the Bears 24-20 Phil Hall Cup win, with De Groot graduating at the end of the year and watching the likes of Weaver and Bryant lift the Queensland trophy the following season.
But ahead of the Langer Trophy 2022 tournament beginning next Wednesday, he said it was while at PBC he got a taste of what it took to succeed in elite rugby league, lessons which inevitably led to an NRL trial appearance with the Gold Coast in February.
“It’s a crazy experience, to think that when we were 10 we were all playing together, and now in a Tweed representative side and with an NRL squad it’s a surreal feeling,” De Groot said.
“You go onto the field with all those boys you’ve played footy with for that long and you know what everyone’s doing. You know when Oskar is going from dummy half or when Tom is backing himself.
“The Langer Trophy is a very good pathway for schoolboys footy, to have that big attention with clubs watching them if you play your game and play to win you get known.
“Nanai killed it against us in the final, and he’s killing it in the NRL. There’s players you can tell are going to be good and it makes it good competition and learning for people coming out of school and could be going on.”
Towards the back end of an intensive 20-week pre-season with the Titans, De Groot took perhaps his grandest steps towards an NRL berth against the Brisbane Broncos.
Lining up for a trial game, the young custodian caught the eye of commenter Andrew Voss for an attempted kick that came off his shin to set up a try.
De Groot would go on to score himself after that, making the most of the extra 8kg of muscle he put on and earning the mantle “the shin kicker” from the popular Fox League figure.
It is a nickname the Seagull has embraced, a proud moniker reminding him of how far he had come in his rugby league journey.
Jaylan De Groot . Cowboys U19’s Vs Titans U’19’s at Queensland Country Bank Stadium. Picture: Alix Sweeney.
Now he is using that experience to fuel his next pursuit — ideally a Queensland Cup debut by the time 2022 comes to an end.
“The nerves, there were so many nerves, being surrounded by all the older NRL players and just the experience of seeing what they go through on game day,” De Groot said.
“Going out there it wasn’t too big a crowd, but you could feel the energy. Early on I was a bit shy and not too sure what to do … so I stepped back and watched and learnt off a few of the boys.
“It was a big eye opener, you get a bit nervous because you don’t want to drop the ball on first touch. But I caught it off a Broncos dropped ball, went into a tackle and got hit and thought ‘this is the contact level’.
“Now I’m getting more comfortable in and around it all, and my footy has definitely taken a step forward. You go to work and put your all in, it’s a dream job and you can’t take advantage of it.
“I’m definitely eyeing off a Cup debut, I thing that would be a really big achievement.”
Becoming a Leader
De Groot had never considered himself much of an on-field leader prior to a conversation with Tweed Colts coach Aaron Zimmerle this season.
With Weaver sidelined, De Groot was named as captain in the Seagulls clash with Townsville, a decision the youngster admitted “shocked” him at first.
Jaylan De Groot in action against the Townsville Blackhawks. Picture: Alix Sweeney
But as he plots a grand final appearance in the under-21s competition he said it was a progression he was eager to take further.
Given his hopes of ascending into an NRL squad full-time from 2023 and beyond, he said it was a crucial phase of his development towards realising that goal.
“I was a bit shocked to be honest, I didn’t think I would be captaining the side. Coach said ‘you see everything from the back, I need you to spread your energy to everyone’,” De Groot said.
“Captaining Tweed was a big honour for me. I haven’t captained a side, it’s never been a role of mine, but I’m transitioning into leader.
“I’m trying to do more of that. I haven’t really put myself forward to be a leader, but especially after the NRL experience I felt like I had stuff to show and put out.
“It’s been a shame all this rain has been for so long, but when we step on the field we’ll be ready to play the footy we know we can play.”
The Next Gen
Those who De Groot played alongside in PBC colours have since left the esteemed school, all except one who he dubbed a “freakish” talent.
Michael Roberts was only in grade 10 when he took his place on the wing alongside the 2020 fullback in the Phil Hall Cup decider, and now looms as the most experienced member of the red army’s top side.
In PBC’s emphatic triumph in last year’s tournament, he starred at five-eighth, while he is also capable of playing in the centres and at fullback.
With their Langer Trophy campaign to begin on June 1 against Marsden State High School — with the match to be livestreamed on the Gold Coast Bulletin website.
De Groot identified the youngster as a player to watch when the action kicks off.
“If you give him the ball he’ll get you points, he’s got game knowledge and awareness and to come in in year 10 to an older system it shows the quality he has,” De Groot said.
“I only got a couple of games with him, and it was more his grind game. He’s a special kid, he’s very talented (and) he’s a freakish kid.”
Langer Trophy Round One Schedule, Wednesday June 1
2.00pm Walters; Forest Lake v Wavell @ Brandon Park
3.30pm Langer; Coombabah v Wavell @ Runaway Bay
3.30pm Langer Res; Ipswich v Keebra @ Nth Ipswich Res
4.30pm Walters Ipswich; v Keebra @ Nth Ipswich Res
5.30pm Langer Ipswich; v Keebra @ Nth Ipswich Res
4.00pm Langer Res; Marsden v PBC @ Marsden SHS
5.00pm Walters; Marsden v PBC @ Marsden SHS
6.00pm Langer; Marsden v PBC @ Marsden SHS
3.00pm Langer Res; Mabel Pk v Redcliffe @ Slacks Creek
4.00pm Walters; Mabel Pk v Caloundra @ Slacks creek
5.00pm Langer; Mabel Pk v Redcliffe @ Slacks Creek
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