Former Gull flies high to take on Titans
WHEN Gold Coast teen Xavier Coates leapt out of the Brisbane Broncos' defensive line to pluck a try-saving intercept against the Newcastle Knights, many of his former teammates knew what the result would be.
Having excelled in track and field at Marymount College, the 19-year-old showed blistering pace at Central Coast Stadium, sprinting at a rate of 36.9km/h to dethrone Origin star Josh Addo-Carr as the season's fastest NRL player.
There were cheers as Coates crossed the line but nobody at Marymount College could claim to be surprised - nor his former Tweed Seagulls teammates.
"We'd seen him on the track at school and I'd never seen anyone push him," college sportsmaster Trent Balym said.
"He never had anyone to chase. As soon as he took the intercept I knew no one could have caught him.
"With his height and stride length, he's almost like Usain Bolt."
Coates is 1cm shorter and 6kg heavier than Bolt, with a gait and build closer to Greg Inglis than the Jamaican sprint king.
His is a potent cocktail of speed and power that 262-game Melbourne Storm winger Matt Geyer observed closely while coaching Coates at Marymount.
Geyer said the blazing Bronco could have been lost to rugby league entirely if not for the love he found playing with his buddies in the school team.
"He nearly gave it up aged 15 or 16 because he never got picked in any representative teams," Geyer said.
"He got disenchanted and was leaning towards walking away. I had to convince him to come back to footy."
Coates was a key part of the Tweed Seagulls under-18 team that won the national championships, defeating Illawarra in dominant style and showing his potential.
His signing with the Broncos marked yet another player the Gold Coast Titans had lost to their northern neighbours.
At school Coates bounced around the team's positions as Geyer experimented to ensure the ball was reaching Coates as often as possible.
"We scored five tries and he would have four of them," he said.
"After school he went from playing for Tweed to Papua New Guinea (Kumuls) and an NRL debut within 40 days.
"To say it's a meteoric rise is one of the greatest understatements you could make."
Geyer said Coates signed with Brisbane because they were the first team to contact him as he began to emerge as a player of potential.
Titans fans will watch the speedster take the field against Gold Coast on Saturday at 5.30pm in Townsville - wearing the wrong colours.