Getting close to the home stretch here in regards to our NRL previews and it is day 12 today, as we preview the Gold Coast Titans and their 2014 chances and opportunities. With the last few years being rather tough for the club, are they in a position to bounce back and finally showcase the consistency and talent we are used to seeing from them? Or despite all their talented players, will it be a repeat of previous years, thus resulting in another overall poor season that leaves fans disappointed? Only time will tell.
GAINS: Brad Takairangi (Pre Season – Sydney Roosters) Maurice Blair (Melbourne Storm) Christian Hazard (South Sydney Rabbitohs) Paul Carter (Canterbury Bulldogs) Siuatonga Likiliki (Newcastle Knights) Kalifa Fai Fai Loa (Gold Coast Titans).
Perhaps the biggest talk out of Titans camp during the off-season was the unexpected – albeit spectacular – departure of Jamal Idris, who left the club to sign with the Penrith Panthers. Idris, who started 2013 fantastically for the Titans before being injured is a loss for the club – a big one at that given how he started the 2013 season and because of his sheer size and ability when in form – so it means the Titans will have to turn to other options at their disposal for potential opportunities.
It was for this reason that the Titans signed Brad Tighe and Siuatonga Likiliki and with veteran utility back Maurice Blair already on their books, the depth is there to fill the shoes of Idris.
As to which one will get the nod is hard to know as all three bring something different to the table. With Tighe appearing to be a front-runner, regardless of who gets the nod, they will have to fit in with the Titans system quickly but you would expect them to form a crucial part of the Titans attack.
The Titans biggest challenge in recent years has been juggling both consistency and a slew of injuries, both of which have contributed to some results that have left fans disappointed.
With an array of talent across the park at their disposal and all of their players now a year wiser and a year older, they have an opportunity to show what they are capable of and get the Titans into a position where the top 8 is a very real possibility. With a mix of youth – the likes of Albert Kelly, Aidan Sezer – and a healthy dose of experience – Luke Bailey, Nate Myles and Greg Bird – the club is well-rounded in terms of their overall side and it will be all those players and many more, that will have to heavily contribute to the campaign.
As a result of their previously poor seasons, one man who might be feeling a touch under pressure is coach John Cartwright. With coaches usually the ones to get the sack when results go awry, he will be hoping that his methods work and that he can get the best out of the players moving forward. With consistency the key for the Titans, can they turn it around or will it end up costing Cartwright is job if they were to have another disappointing season overall?
One player who is under pressure – and the same was probably said at the start of last year by many – is Dave Taylor. A big, powerful unit, Taylor does not use size enough to overpower and dominate opponents in front of him. Largely criticized for not getting involved enough in games and not doing enough to get the best out of himself in relation to his performances, 2014 could be the season that makes or breaks him. He has all the talent in the world and his size make him a formidable asset but unless he can knuckle down, stay out of trouble, cement a spot and truly show the NRL world what he is capable of, he may well continue to draw the ire of all Titans fans. If anyone has to step up, it is Taylor and with the departure of Idris especially, he is the big body on the fringes that the club hopes can perform.
Another crucial aspect for the club are their two young halves – Aidan Sezer and Albert Kelly. The entire RL community has seen just what they are capable of how good they can be as individual players and collectively, but the key for them both and for the club if they are to challenge for the top 8, is to take their games to another level. Lift their games to the cusp of elite level and with their talents, skills and ability, it is not a foreign belief to believe that they can do so.
The halves duo works well given the contrasting styles. With Sezer more of a creator and a patient sort of player who waits for the right opportunity to strike, Kelly is quite the opposite. His ad-lib style of play is one that often brings about mass excitement as you never know what sort of move he will attempt. Whether it is a deft chip-and-chase over the top, a swift dummy on the fringe or a darting run, Kelly is a player that can be quite unpredictable.
It is this unique duo and unique combination that hold the key for the Titans moving forward and with a solid core of players around them that are all primed to perform, it remains to be seen whether or not they can steer the ship for the club.
Overall, if the Titans are going to have their breakout year and show the rest of the NRL what they are capable of, this is it. Origin players are at their disposal, talented players are getting better, young kids are emerging and the core of their side is set and balanced. They have the team to challenge but will they have the consistency to get there?
Here’s the Titans side I’d go with:
1. William Zillman
2. Kevin Gordon
3. Brad Tighe
4. Maurice Blair
5. David Mead
6. Aidan Sezer
7. Albert Kelly
8. Luke Bailey
9. Matt Srama
10. Ryan James
11. Greg Bird
12. Nate Myles
13. Ash Harrison
14. Ben Ridge
15. Paul Carter
16. Luke Douglas
17. Dave Taylor