Round 18: Titans v Roosters preview
Post-Origin uncertainty turns sure-thing into potential banana-skin.
While form-lines coming into this clash suggest it should be one way traffic for the Tricolours at Robina on Sunday night, the reality could be vastly different. The hosts, Gold Coast, are last-start losers, copping a 34-0 thumping from neighbouring Brisbane last Sunday, albeit missing two key forwards to Origin duty. Those two men - Jai Arrow and Jarrod Wallace - appear likely to back up from the Wednesday heroics in winning the Maroons the third game of the 2018 Origin series.
The Roosters on the other hand have won three of their last four, succumbing only to the Storm in Adelaide by a single point. Wins over the Panthers, Knights and Wests Tigers in June have this Sunday's visitors well placed for a run into September.
However, it's not all rosy in the teamlist department - captain Boyd Cordner has been rested and the Bondi side's other two Origin reps in James Tedesco and Latrell Mitchell will be touch-and-go as to whether they play. They've also lost Victor Radley to suspension after the club unsuccesfully lobbied to have it served as part of the Under 20's Origin match played prior to the main game on Wednesday. Add doubt hanging over halfback Cooper Cronk and the numbers on the Roosters' teamsheet come kickoff could resemble more of a lotto draw.
Despite the Roosters' relative success over the decade since the Titans' inception, the ledger is almost square, with the Tricolours holding a slender 9-8 win ratio from 17 games since these sides first met in 2007. Seven weeks ago the Roosters recorded a 20-point victory in Gosford over the Titans.
Who to watch: Captain and prop Ryan James will be keen to prove to Brad Fittler he should've been an inclusion in the Blues' third game lineup. In a season of mixed results for the Titans, James has been among their standouts, carrying the team up-front with Queensland prop Jarrod Wallace and on occasion with Jai Arrow as well. His well-documented shift from the second-row to the front has been a talking point, but the Gold Coast captain is keen to get the job done wherever Brennan puts him.
With Radley suspended, the second-row pairing looks likely to be Nat Butcher and Mitch Aubusson. Aubusson has been ably filling the utility role for the Roosters for many seasons now, his ability to slot into the backline and the back-row proving extremely valuable, especially during representative periods when the Roosters' stocks are regularly depleted. He'll be called upon again this Sunday and will be looking to ensure he keeps his spot in a side which will be welcoming Ryan Matterson back in a similar role in coming weeks.