Will Matthews
Will Matthews Northern Star

Matthews named in Gold Coast squad

KYOGLE'S Will Matthews is set to make his NRL debut with the Gold Coast Titans against St George Illawarra on Saturday night.

And in a show of faith, the Titans have this week re-signed the former Bush Turkey until the end of the 2011 season.

Matthews, 20, has been named in the Titans' preliminary 18-man squad with hard men Luke Bailey, Aaron Cannings and Daniel Conn all ruled out through injury.

But Matthews looks certain to play off the bench at Skilled Stadium.

Speaking from a team camp in Coffs Harbour yesterday, Titans coach John Cartwright said Matthews' form in the Under-20s Toyota Cup had earned him the call-up ahead of the more experienced Ian Donnelly and Matt Cross.

"He is one of the leading players I've seen in the Under-20s this year," Cartwright said. "It's a big wrap (getting called up) in first grade. He's not just there to make up the numbers; he has earned his right to be there.

"He matched it in the Queensland Cup last year with hardened veterans and proved himself there.

"Physically, he is very strong; he is a strong runner, solid in defence. He is young and enthusiastic and when you add guys like that, it adds to every player in the team."

Coming off a disappointing one-point loss to the Rabbitohs on Monday night, Matthews' exuberance could be just what the Titans need to get their finals charge back on track.

The 102kg baby-faced forward said he was at the Gold Coast airport on Tuesday morning when he got the call-up.

"It's a bit of a surprise," he said.

"They called me up after the (Rabbitohs) game and told me to come down to Coffs Harbour - it was an awesome feeling. I think I'm ready. I'm as ready as I can be. I just need to go out with the right attitude.

"This is what I've wanted to do for a long time so it's good to be finally happening."

Matthews' parents, John and Leanne, and his siblings are expected to watch him play opposite former Australian and NSW State of Origin prop Jason Ryles.

"I'm trying not to think about it," Matthews said of his possible debut.

"I'm just focused on doing what I have to do. Just go forward, work hard and do my best. That's all I can do.
"I expect it will be pretty physical and faster than (the Under) 20s. I've been playing good minutes with the 20s. I usually play a full game in the second row and about 60 minutes in the front row.

"It doesn't really worry me where I play as long as I get a go."

With Bailey, Cannings and Conn all expected to be sidelined for lengthy periods, this could be an opportunity for Matthews to make a name for himself. But Cartwright said it was too early to speculate on his future.

"It's very, very hard to pick who's going to be in first grade (in the coming weeks)," Cartwright said.

"This is his first first-grade game.

"I'm sure he has plans to have a long future.

"He's a shy fella, but a good listener and a good learner. He has all the ability but it's a long road in front of him."

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