Round 19: St George Illawarra v Gold Coast preview
Last start losers look to stay in the finals race
With seven rounds remaining until 16 teams become eight, the St George Illawarra Dragons and the Gold Coast Titans will be treating Sunday's encounter at CBUS Super Stadium as a must-win.
Sitting in seventh position after squandering a halftime lead last week, the St George Illawarra Dragons will field a revamped squad in an effort of recapturing their winning ways.
Going down 32-18 to the Sea Eagles last Friday on the Gold Coast, Dragons coach Anthony Griffin will be hoping his team can continue a dominant record against the Titans that has yielded 16 wins from 24 meetings since 2007.
Standing down Corey Norman for his COVID breach suspension, young pivot Jayden Sullivan will make his first appearance of the season, while Jack Bird shifts to the forward pack in a reshuffle that sees Cody Ramsey and Gerard Beale line up in the centres.
Coming into the contest in 11th position - but only two premiership point outside the top eight - the Gold Coast Titans will be determined to make a statement in a bid to extend their campaign beyond Round 25.
Producing an underwhelming 26-8 loss against the Eels to open last week's round of football, coach Justin Holbrook has responded by making a number of changes brought on by injury and performance.
Unable to call upon Jamal Fogarty, Phillip Sami and Erin Clark due to injury, debutant Toby Sexton headlines the new faces alongside Greg Marzhew and Mitch Rein. Queensland front-rower Moeaki Fotuaika returns to the starting side after coming off the bench last week.
Playing their inaugural premiership match against the joint venture 14 years ago, the Titans will appear as the visiting team at CBUS Super Stadium for the first time on Sunday afternoon.
Who to watch: Returning to the starting line-up after missing the loss to the Sea Eagles for his part in the infamous "Weekend at Vaughany's", fleet-footed fullback Matt Dufty will be hoping to finish his tenure at the Red V on a high. Penning a one-year deal with the Bulldogs after well-publicised negotiations, the 25-year-old looms as the Dragons' best chance of breaking back into September football. Producing 11 try-assists to go along with ten four-pointers of his own this season, look for Dufty to be heavily involved as the Dragons strive to continue a strong record on the Gold Coast.
Providing plenty of value for his new club in 14 appearances this season, the Titans will be looking for Tino Fa'asuamaleaui to draw upon his big game experience in Sunday's do-or-die clash. Boasting a premiership ring and six Origins for Queensland after just 41 matches in the top grade, the 21-year-old colossus has been among the side's top performers in a year that has been plagued by inconsistency. Averaging 137 metres and around 30 tackles each week, Fa'asuamaleaui will need to produce a performance befitting his reputation if the league's youngest club are to remain in the hunt for the top eight.
The favourite: In light of the Dragons missing several first choice first-graders, the Titans are expected to get the job done ‘away from home'.
My tip: The Dragons have won six of their ten visits to CBUS Super Stadium previously; in a match between two teams capable of greatness and mediocrity in equal measure, the ‘hosts' will be hoping that statistic acts as a fortuitous omen. St George Illawarra by 6.