Donnelly may be back to the future

By STEVE SPINKS and AAP BALLINA'S Ian Donnelly was one of four regular first graders to miss out when coach John Cartwright named his squad for Gold Coast's NRL season-opener against North Queensland on Friday night.

Cartwright said competition for berths had been intense and indicated Brenton Bowen, Luke Swain, Donnelly and Matt Cross were unlucky to miss out on his 18-man squad.

Sydney Roosters recruit Ashley Harrison won the battle with Swain for the lock spot, while Jordan Atkins was preferred on the wing ahead of Bowen, who has missed a chance to play against his cousin, Cowboys fullback Matt Bowen.

"It's hard to put a side together for the first game of the year at any stage," Cartwright said.

"Everyone's normally reasonably fit, but this year through our trials and our whole pre-season there's probably no one who doesn't deserve to be there."

Coincidentally, Donnelly may find himself going back to the future.

While the prop played his junior football with Ballina, Donnelly eventually made his first grade debut with Lismore Marist Brothers after attending St John's College Woodlawn.

The coach of Brothers was Michael Woods who was in the midst of amassing six consecutive Group One premierships.

Woods is now the head coach of the Tweed Seagulls Queensland Cup side, one of the clubs with the option of taking on the surplus Titans players. The other club is Ipswich.

Woods names his team for the Queensland Cup opener with Redcliffe today.

Meanwhile, three local players have been named in the inaugural Gold Titans Under-20 team to contest the new National Youth Competition.

Kyogle's Shannon Walker (fullback) and Will Matthews (second-rower) will play alongside Mullumbimby's Cody Nelson (five-eighth).

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