Updated lineups for Saturday's #PacificTest double header.
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5 hours ago
It is easy to forget about the Gold Coast Titans - many of us do it. Not too long ago, this writer had them finishing outside the top 8 in 2018.
You see, the Titans get lost in the shuffle. Some of it is their fault, some of it ours. They are a boutique organisation that has never really reached their full potential. They're an afterthought in a world that belongs to Sydney-mad media, their big brothers in Brisbane and Melbourne's purple pride. Hell, they're number four in Queensland behind the Maroons, Broncos and Cowboys. It took a San Francisco 49er joining the club for us to take notice. Even then it was always about Jarryd Hayne and never the Titans. He left and we deleted Gold Coast's number from our phones. Had a good time but we were never really friends, were we?
Before Hayne, they were battlers who had to play their best every week to be a chance. Sometimes they won and we'd say "well fancy that, good on them". If they lost, well, it didn't really matter. The Titans don't sell newspapers in Sydney, you see?
The Gold Coast are a Fox Sports 5.30pm Saturday afternoon team and that's okay. They want it that way. New coach Garth Brennan is banking on his side flying under the radar.
Brennan has assembled quite the roster. Better still, the man can coach.
Yet here we are only three sleeps until the season officially gets under way and nobody is talking about the Titans. They don't get clicks on websites either.
Brennan must be laughing.
Let's break down the squad.
Ash Taylor is on his way to the top of rugby league. It's just a matter of time. He's a long-term State of Origin prospect and a legitimate dark horse for the Dally M if gets the support he needs. He should get it too. New South Wales hooker Nathan Peats and veteran fullback Michael Gordon give Taylor stability - he knows what he's going to get from them. The real difference for Taylor and the Titans could be Kane Elgey. The little pivot battled plenty of mental demons in 2017 after coming back from an awful ACL injury. He just needs some luck.
The enigmatic ballplayer shocked everyone when he defected from the Penrith Panthers to join the Titans. He had people scratching their heads when he said he didn't want to play five-eigth at the Panthers despite the addition of James Maloney. You sense he felt lost at the Panthers and needed direction. He will find that under his former lower grade coach at Penrith in Brennan. Cartwright's role at the Titans will be pretty simple too: don't overplay your hand, trust yourself to make the right plays. There are plenty of no-nonsense forwards at the Titans including their skipper Ryan James. If Cartwright shirks his defensive responsibilities he'll get shown up. It's all attitude with Cartwright. Get the attitude right and the sky is the limit.
Opposition forward packs are going to learn pretty quickly that it's a tough old day at the office when you come up against these middle men. Kevin Proctor, Jarrod Wallace, Leilani Latu, Will Matthews, Keegan Hipgrave, Jai Arrow and captain James have the job of moving the Titans down the field. Judging by their recruitment, Brennan wants a certain type of player in his pack. Hipgrave is a player to watch.
Apart from youngsters coming through, Gold Coast will enjoy competition for spots out wide. Brenko Lee was a great pickup in the off-season. He'll join the likes of cult hero Konrad Hurrell, Anthony Don, Dale Copley, Brendan Elliot and Gordon. This is a big year for Hurrell. He needs to lead by example on the field and work hard for his side when they're coming out of their own danger zone. The rest will take care of itself.
The Titans are a realistic chance of starting the season 3-0 with games against the Raiders, Warriors and Dragons. That will set them up for a local derby showdown in round four against the Broncos.
We'll have a good idea by then what the Titans stand for.
Maybe then we'll put their number back in our phones.
Join Curtis Woodward and The81stMinute Call Team for their return this Saturday, live from ANZ Stadium at 1pm for Western Suburbs Magpies vs. Canterbury Bulldogs on steelesports.com.au!