Signing young players and building them up for the future is something all clubs aspire to do as well as ensuring their side has experience and the Gold Coast Titans have gone down that path, signing Maurice Blair from the Storm, Paul Carter from the Dogs, Christian Hazard from Souths and Siuatonga Likiliki from the Knights.
Blair, Carter and Hazard have all signed two year deals until the end of 2015, with Likiliki signing on for just the 2014 season.
With Blair the most experienced of the lot, his versatility is a valuable asset for any side and for Titans coach John Cartwright, he is the sort of player his side news moving forward.
â€œThey are all in positions that weâ€™ve needed a bit of strengthening and they all have plenty of upside in them, all very young, well credentialed and we look forward to getting them to the club,â€™â€™ said Cartwright.
â€œWe think their best years are in front of them. With a taste of first grade next year and over the coming years they have the ability to establish themselves as first graders.
â€œMaurice is a little bit different and is a little bit more experienced and this is a chance for him to come home. But the other three are kids with plenty of upside in them as far as age is concerned and the opportunity that we are able to give them.â€™â€™
It was back in 2007 when Blair made his debut with the Penrith Panthers and since that time, he has played in 78 NRL games and has cemented himself as a regular in the Storm back-line.
â€œHe has spent some time at Penrith and down in Melbourne. He was in the Stormâ€™s first grade side until recently when he suffered a bit of a neck injury but heâ€™s 100 per cent fine and I expect him to be back in the side for Melbourne in the run into to the semis,â€™â€™ said Cartwright.
â€œHeâ€™s a really good footballer, a try scorer and a strong defender who can cover five-eighth, centre and back row. Any guy like that who has played the amount of first grade that he has is a very handy acquisition for us.â€™â€™
Experience is only one part of an NRL side, however, and ensuring a club has the right mix of young shirt pokies players as a succession plan is imperative, with the signing of the young trio seen as a bonus.
One such young player is Newcastle Knights centre, Siuatonga Likiliki. A talented utility back, Likiliki’s chances at the Knights have been few and far between but with a change of club, the talented back may be afforded a chance to prove his worth in a new system.
â€œHe can play wing and centre and we have been short in those areas this year at times and has all his best football in front of him,” said Cartwright.
â€œHeâ€™s a man mountain, a very big man who is very powerful and we look forward to getting him to the club.”
Another young player signed, one Paul Carter from the Canterbury Bulldogs, is another young player with a heap of promise.
Adept in the back-row or at lock, Carter is a player that has huge wraps on him and is one of the brightest young sparks at the Bulldogs club.
â€œWeâ€™re in a position over the next few years where we are going to need some youth in that back row and Paul fills that bill there,” said Cartwright.
â€œI played with his father and if heâ€™s as half as good as his father, heâ€™s going to be a great player for us.”
With what he can bring to the team as well as offering additional forward depth, the opportunity for the Titans to shore up their depth stocks with a talented player was too good to refuse.
Finally, a young kid by the name of Christian Hazard and currently at South Sydney is Aldo headed to the Titans.
Regarded as one of the best young halfbacks in the Holden Cup Competition, Hazard has a great footy mind and a lot of composure as a player for someone his age.
Hailing from Toowoomba, the move to the the Gold Coast sees him move closer to home and to family.
â€œHeâ€™s one of the better halfbacks Iâ€™ve watched in the Under-20s competition this year. Heâ€™s originally from Toowoomba so is getting back near home,” said Cartwright.
â€œAnyone who saw our Under-20s game against Souths a couple of weeks ago will see the talent that this kid has. Heâ€™s got a bit of a queue in front of him down there and sees some opportunity here.”