2021 Preview: Gold Coast Titans
16 hours ago | Rick Edgerton
Moses Mbye and Robbie Farah, formerly of the Canterbury Bulldogs and South Sydney Rabbitohs respectively, will make their first appearance in the orange, black and white this season and shake up an already puzzled spine combination. With Mbye at fullback and Farah at hooker, they are tasked to sync with Luke Brooks and the returning Josh Reynolds. Reynolds has had an injury interrupted debut season with the Tigers, but is named to return for this clash and yet to play his best football.
The Tigers have lost seven of their last nine matches and were thoroughly beaten 48-12 by the Canberra Raiders at Campbelltown Stadium in their last match. From being surprisingly comfortable in the top four after six rounds, they're now in 10th spot and closer to what the public expectation has been. They've looked a tired team of late, what was a formidable defence in the opening rounds is leaking points. Inspirational centre Mahe Fonua will be missed as he's recovering from a broken arm.
A big win for the Titans against the Bulldogs has brought positivity and optimism that missing the finals isn't a foregone conclusion. With coach Garth Brennan playing some of his highest paid players week-after-week in reserve grade, it's been an achievement to be placed higher than five other NRL teams on the ladder at this point in the season. Two more wins from their remaining 10 matches would see the club equal their 2017 season win tally. After this game three of their next four matches are against top eight teams, this makes victory essential on Sunday. Jarrod Wallace returns from Origin and suspension to bolster the forwards.
Their best performers, primed for a big game, have been captain Ryan James and Jarryd Hayne's replacement Michael Gordon. James has been snubbed from State of Origin twice this season, toyed with by the Blues over the years, yet to debut in that competition and doesn't let the disappointment show on the field. Scoring three tries in his last two games must make it easier to gloss over. Only a handful of players in the NRL outwork James. Gordon at 34 years of age is yet to slow down and produced a man of the match performance against the Bulldogs in round 15, accumulating four line breaks. He gets another chance to attack his opposite number from that match, Moses Mbye.
Last meeting: Round 21 2017 - Titans 4 Wests Tigers 26
The blowout loss for Gold Coast was the first time the Wests Tigers defeated the Titans since Round 1 2015, a 19-18 win sealed by a Pat Richards field goal in the 80th minute.
Who to watch: What Ivan Cleary will be asking of Moses Mbye can't be much different to Dean Pay's ideas at the Bulldogs. Mbye's been a bright spot in what's proven to be a dull Canterbury season. His attacking instinct and running with the football could be the difference in this match. The last match he played was a loss to the Titans, the keys to victory should be fresh in his mind.
While this year's State of Origin victor has been decided, the opportunity still exists for Ash Taylor to play himself into the Queensland side for game three. It may not be for the halfback jersey, because Kevin Walters has dismissed some of the heavy criticism aimed at Ben Hunt, but to be the next halfback in line and possibly 18th or 19th man for the Maroons should be a goal of his.
The favourite: Tipsters are ignoring form as the Tigers are heavily favoured to shut down the Titans. The return of club legend Robbie Farah and the expected impact of Moses Mbye, coupled with the difficulty away sides experience playing at Leichardt Oval has convinced many. Gold Coast has only achieved a back-to-back win once this season and they are in need of stringing wins together as their chance at the finals depends on it.
My tip: The home side has reason to be nervous. With a loss they risk falling potentially six competition points away from the top eight and level with the Titans depending on other results. Expect a recharged Tigers outfit not defensively solid because of new combinations, but with enough attack and home crowd support to get the job done. The Titans have continuity in their top 17 and firing forwards, but the weakness of the backline will cost them. Tigers by 4.
1. Moses Mbye 2. Malakai Watene-Zelezniak 3. Esan Marsters 4. Kevin Naiqama 5. Corey Thompson 6. Josh Reynolds 7. Luke Brooks 8. Russell Packer 9. Robbie Farah 14. Alex Twal 11. Chris Lawrence 21. Chris McQueen 13. Elijah Taylor 12. Josh Aloiai 15. Sauaso Sue 16. Michael Chee Kam 17. Matt Eisenhuth
1. Michael Gordon 2. Anthony Don 3. Dale Copley 4. Brenko Lee 5. Phillip Sami 6. Aj Brimson 7. Ashley Taylor 8. Jarrod Wallace 9. Nathan Peats 10. Ryan James 11. Kevin Proctor 12. Keegan Hipgrave 13. Jai Arrow 14. Mitch Rein 15. Will Matthews 16. Moeaki Fotuaika 17. Jack Stockwell
Referees: Jon Stone, Gavin Reynolds; Sideline Officials: Rickey McFarlane, Belinda Sleeman;