Titans put Zain in elite academy
RUGBY League fans should remember the name Zain Dowding for future reference.
The 14-year-old was awarded rookie of the year at his club the Byron Bay/Lennox Head Devil Dolphins last season.
This week he was selected by the Gold Coast Titans for its Elite Training Academy.
"It's awesome to get this opportunity, I never expected it this early in my career,” Zain said.
"I have only played one full season of league so far, but I love league - it's an awesome sport.”
Starting November 22, Zain will train once a week for four weeks on the Gold Coast with a further four sessions early in 2018.
"They want to see what I've got and gauge my attitude to the game and training,” Zain said.
The Xavier Catholic College student is a striking player, who at just 14 years old is more than 1.9m tall.
"I'm a forward, a big blocker on the field,” Zain said.
Devil Dolphins club administrator Nicky Sheridan said not only was Zain a talented player, "he has a very mature attitude to the game”.
Zain singled out his club coach Andrew Weir for praise, saying he was "awesome” and had helped him greatly with his development as a player.
The Byron Bay/Lennox Head juniors have a close relationship with the Gold Coast team and Titans players make regular appearances during the season at the local team's training runs at Red Devil Park.
In June this year, Titans star player Jarryd Hayne made a surprise visit to their training session.
Zain and his family moved to the area earlier this year from South Wagga and his mother Simone Dowding was full of praise for the club.
"The Devil Dolphins are so well run,” she said. "Zain would not have had this opportunity if the team was not as supportive as it is.
"This is a professional development pathway into a career with the Titans, and only offered to a few players across the country, so I'm very proud of him.
"There are amazing opportunities for our children here in the Bay.”