Finals Week 1: EF 1: Roosters v Titans preview
Roosters' credibility on the line against contented Titans
With a rap sheet heavily smeared with losses, the eighth placed Titans host the fifth ranked Roosters in a Queensland eliminator. Knock, knock …this is finals, yeah?
In the corridors of round 25, somehow Robina missed the message. Not only did the Gold Coast squeeze past Cronulla, they thumped the Warriors by the club's biggest winning margin. But instead of fireworks and Meter Maids, as the Glitter Strip parade made its turn towards the finals it was comically hijacked by Looney Tunes escapees Matt Lodge and Kane Evans.
But in a strange 2021 kinda way, it makes sense. Now as the Roosters dip their salary cap sombrero to a depth greater than the Pacific Ocean, Justin Holbrook tops Queensland's only finals float.
Surely for Holbrook, to fly the state's only flag should be enough. They say the Titans' win/loss ratio is the lowest of any team to qualify for the finals in the history of the competition. Now this week they face the Roosters, who they last beat in 2016 - it's the only time in the past 10 contests.
Now with the crazy-eyes of Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Victor Radley back in the pack, the Bondi boys might just be timing their run. And with Lachlan Lam once again winning the number No.7, a fresh Sam Walker will be the cat on the hot tin roof the Titans dread most when the clock winds down.
Then there's James Tedesco, big games, big guns. But what of David Fifita? The Sunset Strip's cash cow still sits on the bench. That package up his jumper is either protecting bruised ribs or the big fella has stolen a loaf of bread.
Either way, he'll need to punch out another couple of tries, especially if Trent Robinson rolls out the September grind, because it's not the Gold Coast way. Even with three Maroons in the starting pack, the Titans will want a licence to unlock their ad-lib best.
Much like round 14, when the side's played out the match of the season. That day, Holbrook's men snoozed to a 30-4 deficit before drawing level after a five try blitz in 17 minutes. Walker's late field goal cruelly brought them to their knees, but at least they learned how to ruffle the Roosters' feathers.
Who to watch: Despite the constant chat, Jayden Campbell is actually different to his old man. For starters, he's twice as tall and doesn't pack headgear. Then there's the street woven rat-tail. That said, Preston's propensity to mesmerize defenders hasn't fallen far from the tree.
For the junior Campbell, last week's win was his first in Titans colours. The worry for Robinson lies in the five losses that preceded the Warriors clash. Despite the pressure, it did nothing to curb the fullback's solo genius.
With the masters of niggle, Victor Radley and Kevin Proctor back in their respective lineups, Townsville could be in for a treat. For all their energy and good intentions, the fact is when things go wrong, their side's prospects can spiral real quick. Radley has already missed eight games to suspension this season, while Proctor for the most part has avoided the judiciary's wrath. In the end, the result could boil down to which of the two keeps their hand out of the cookie jar the longest.
The favourite: C'mon, it's finals time. With only 10 wins from 24 starts, the Gold Coast are favourites to replicate their regular season form.
My tip: So much for Robbo's injury ravaged Roosters, this week he's named eight guns from his 2019 premiership winning side. Sure, a few Holbrook roulette spins will entertain, but in the end the big game Roosters, playing their fifth straight finals series, will collect the cash. Roosters by 16.