Four weeks ago, Nathan Peats was touted as a smoky to replace Robbie Farah in the Blues number nine jumper. A month later, he’s the fall guy for the mismanagement of an inept board.
Despite the turbulence and injustices of the last few weeks, Peats churned out a stellar performance for his new club, helping them to a four-point win over competition heavyweights Penrith at the foot of the mountains on Sunday.
After spending a brief period in the back row, the benching of Nathan Friend shortly before half time allowed Peats to return to his traditional role at dummy-half.
In his fifty-eight minutes on the ground, Peats made fourty-two tackles in a typically prolific defensive display. However, it was his attacking prowess that took center stage.
In the sixty-fourth minute, he burrowed his way underneath two Penrith defenders off the back of a Greg Bird play-the-ball to score a crucial try and regain score-line parity for the Titans.
His short runs out of dummy half during the second stanza caught the tired Penrith big men out of position, allowing the Gold Coast forwards to access open pasture off the back of quick play-the-balls. Bird and James both profited from Peats’ presence, running for 116 and 120 meters respectively.
His performance was bittersweet justice on two fronts.
Since their inception, the Gold Coast has struggled to lure star players to the club. Cherry-Evans’ backflip on a deal in July last year left a void in the halves, an issue that was further compounded by the subsequent injury to Kane Elgey, and departure of Aiden Sezer to the Canberra Raiders.
Ironically, through their absence, they’ve uncovered a future star halfback in Ashley Taylor.
If a positive is to be drawn from the unfortunate circumstances of the Peats move to the glitter strip, it’s that he will remain steadfast in a blue, gold and white jumper till at least the end of 2017, becoming one of the Gold Coast’s bigger marque signings since Scott Prince.
For the Titans, having an experienced head in the hooking role after Nathan Friend’s contract with the Titans expires at the end of this year, is crucial in developing its young spine.
Taylor, Elgey and Roberts will all benefit from Nathan Peats’ match awareness, which, despite him being just 25 years old, is amongst the most finely tuned in the competition.
The only negative I can see for the Gold Coast is that Peats is among four other hookers currently contracted to the Titans. Fortunately, he has plenty of experience playing in the backrow, particularly at lock, from his time at the Rabbitohs and can play in that position if circumstances require him to.
For Peats personally, the game against the Panthers signaled the start of a new chapter in his Rugby League career.
Despite the perceived silver linings, I still resent the circumstances in which Peats and Parramatta parted ways.
Just last year he played thirty-six minutes against the Roosters with a broken neck, toughing it out for his teammates and the pride he had in the jumper. It speaks volumes about the toughness of Peats, both mentally and physically, and the commitment he has to a team and its players.
His selflessness is a hallmark of the way he plays Rugby League.
When he became the sacrificial lamb to cure Parramatta’s salary cap deficit of $570,000, the comradery and mateship forged between him and his Parramatta teammates through two and a half seasons in the blue and gold was prematurely and unjustly relinquished.
It’s disappointing that in an age where cynicism and large paychecks trump club loyalty, that the one player who embodies fidelity is moved on through the ineptitude of an imprudent hierarchy.
Despite all this, Nathan Peats is a crusader for modern generation footballers. Upon learning his fate following the salary cap debacle, he had every right to feel betrayed by the administrators and the club, but his diplomatic responses to the media’s enquiries over his treatment is a testament to his character.
Instead of blaming others, Peats handled himself with the utmost dignity, acknowledging that Rugby League is a ‘business’, and remained optimistic about a new start on the Gold Coast.
I hope for both he and the Titans sake that karma takes its course, and they continue their ascendancy towards the top eight and beyond in season 2016.