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Kelly convince he's set up to succeed under new Titans coach

Andrew Mathieson -

Brian Kelly had arguably his best season yet this year after seven attempts in the NRL.

But the Bundjalung man's hit-and-miss career, as little more than a Gold Coast role or relief player, could have its fortunes upgraded under the guidance of Des Hasler.

One of rugby league's most influential mentors over the past two decades signed up to the club after coaching at Manly across two stints in between a run at Canterbury.

Unlike like Aboriginal talent Jack Bird, who reunites next year for St George-Illawarra with his first NRL coach Shane Flanagan from Cronulla's premiership era, Kelly had a near miss in his new association with Hasler.

Kelly started his first-grade career at Brookvale – where Hasler was a revered figure – but left the year before the prodigal son returned to the venue in 2019.

In the back of the Northern Heads junior's mind, there has been a tinge of questioning what sort of player he could have been had Kelly not wanted to come home.

Amid all the heat and sweat of a preseason at Robina, the wait to appease his curiosity is finally over.

That tinge of regret is slowly fading after relishing what the new but old coach has to offer in Hasler's 19th NRL coaching season that has totalled 458 games in charge.

The Titans centre, who signed a new deal this year until the end of the 2026 season, is almost convinced that fans will witness his best version of himself.

"All of the backs are learning both sides (of the field) and there's plenty of competition in there … it brings out the best in everyone," Kelly said on Friday during a postponed NAIDOC Day festivities for fans after this year's date was washed out in July.

"I feel I'm getting better and learning every day.

"Dessie's been telling me what I need to work on, so it's great."

That is fitness to run out 80 minutes better and also defence just to prevent the Titans – not just Kelly – from not conceding blocks of soft tries to their rivals.

The advice has allowed him to focus on retaining and building on his spot in what he believed was the best preseason in his five seasons at the club.

Hasler has not promised Kelly, a cousin to past NRL talent Albert Kelly and James Roberts, a starting role to run out on the pitch even after 147 first-grade appearances.

But far from a divided camp, the coach has his men more united than ever before.

The wicked sense of humour from one of the most old-school coaches going around to be able to drop his guard and crack a joke has kept egos intact and laughter a break to catch their breaths.

"He's got a bit of a joke in him, but he's also got that serious stern side … to be honest, it's what we need," Kelly said.

"I love it – he knows the right words and at the right timing, and he knows how to put players on the right path.

"We all give a bit of cheek too, but when it gets to the nitty gritty, it makes each other better."

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