2 days ago
Titans v Sharks preview
An air of unpredictability hits the glitter strip.
The Gold Coast Titans have been confounding the pre-season critics who wrote off Garth Brennan's men as a hodge-podge of average players and a few ex-Panthers he took with him north of the border. This has been far from the case with the Titans pulling off some big scalps in 2017, including wins over Brisbane and Manly before falling to the Panthers and Cowboys in the last fortnight.
Currently sitting tight in 11th spot after falling to 3 wins and 4 losses (after sitting at 3 and 2 after Round 5), and having played all bar one of their matches so far in 2018 away from their Gold Coast base due to the Commonwealth Games, they'll be feeling bittersweet about their fortunes thus far.
The loss in Toowoomba to the Dragons was a wake-up call for Saturday's home side who put on two stunning performances against the Broncos and Manly, planting them safely into the NRL top 8. The following fortnight was less than ideal with a heavy 35-12 defeat to the Panthers in Penrith whilst in Townsville the Cowboys had too much strength and experience for a Titans side that is still an unpolished unit. Brennan has recognised this, swinging the axe on Kane Elgey's first grade spot and putting Bryce Cartwright in the halves to partner Ash Taylor.
Gold Coast will take on a Cronulla Sharks side that comes into the match high on confidence after taking an impressive victory over the Penrith Panthers at Shark Park last weekend. The Sharks have been inconsistent to say the least this season, with the same 3 wins, 4 losses record that the Titans come in with, and sit just one spot above the Titans on the NRL ladder.
They headed into last weeks clash against the Panthers off the back of two heavy defeats to the Roosters and Dragons, with the latter coming with a significant injury toll. Cronulla lost three players to the casualty ward, with Luke Lewis, Paul Gallen and Wade Graham all sidelined for varying spells. Luckily they welcome back Wade Graham this week, but are without Lewis who did more damage on his return from injury last week early in the match against the Panthers.
Last meeting: Round 19 2017 - Titans 30 Sharks 10
Who to watch: Bryce Cartwright; The big-name Titans recruit has had a less than ideal start to his Titans career, the ex-Panther is yet to cross the line for a four pointer and yet to even crack the line break stats so far in 2018. Arguably the highlight of Cartwright's season (or lowlight, depending on your views), was the irony of his return to Panthers Stadium a fortnight ago, only to be sin binned late in that match. The malaise of the Titans attack has meant that coach Brennan has selected Cartwright at five-eighth over Elgey to spark some attack in the Titans that has lacked in previous weeks.
Matt Moylan; Another high profile ex-Panther, Matt Moylan was dubbed the next Darren Lockyer but that's gone down the drain big time, with calls from many corners suggesting Moylan has been overrated. He stepped up his game big time last week against the Panthers, but needs to back it up to repay the faith that has been shown in him by the elite minds of rugby league and the Sharks' coaching staff. The pressure on Moylan is immense with the Panthers so far coming out on top with the Moylan-Maloney swap deal.
The favourite: The Sharks off the back of their win last week have been installed as favourites against the out of form home side
My tip: The Sharks have been too inconsistent for them to be certainties to tip as winners, however the Titans form has been poor in recent weeks and the mix-up to the side by Brennan could be what sparks some form again for the Titans side. The other factor is that Cartwright to the halves could be a disaster as it was on occasions for the his former club last season. Cronulla should win the game despite losing on their last visit to the Gold Coast - but it won't be an easy one. Sharks by 10.
1. Michael Gordon 2. Anthony Don 3. Brendan Elliott 4. Konrad Hurrell 5. Phillip Sami 6. Bryce Cartwright 7. Ashley Taylor 8. Jarrod Wallace 9. Mitch Rein 10. Ryan James 11. Kevin Proctor 12. Will Matthews 13. Jai Arrow 14. Max King 15. Jack Stockwell 16. Keegan Hipgrave 17. Morgan Boyle
1. Josh Dugan 2. Edrick Lee 3. Jesse Ramien 4. Ricky Leutele 5. Valentine Holmes 6. Matt Moylan 7. Chad Townsend 8. Andrew Fifita 9. Jayden Brailey 10. Matt Prior 11. Scott Sorensen 18. Kurt Capewell 13. Joseph Paulo 14. Jayson Bukuya 15. James Segeyaro 16. Ava Seumanufagai 17. Kurt Dillon
Referees: Chris Butler, Matt Noyen; Sideline Officials: Jeff Younis, Belinda Sleeman; Video Referees: Luke Patten, Ben Cummins;