2021 Preview: Gold Coast Titans
16 hours ago | Rick Edgerton
Fast-starting 2018 preliminary finalist becomes tough task for slumping Titans
Anthony who? Life at South Sydney is going pretty well under new coach Wayne Bennett.
The Rabbitohs have played their first two matches on the road and took down the defending premiers in round one, then scored 34 points on the St George Illawarra Dragons last week.
Covering for the loss of Angus Crichton has been seamless. Sam Burgess has carved up teams so far in the jersey vacated by Crichton and Cameron Murray at lock has been the first try scorer two weeks in a row.
Braidon Burns was given the opportunity to play left centre ahead of Greg Inglis and his performances have made the league sit up and pay attention.
Meanwhile, the optimism around the Gold Coast Titans for season 2019 is quickly fading among those living on the glitter strip.
A strong defence has never been a pillar for Gold Coast wins in its 13-year history.
In coach Garth Brennan's second year on the job there hasn't been an indication yet that this is going to change.
Scoring has always come natural to them, but this season the absence of the injured Ash Taylor and Tyrone Roberts has left the Titans with just six points from 160 minutes of football.
However, if Jai Arrow had not earned the respect as one of the NRL's hardest workers before last week's match against the Cronulla Sharks he's certainly earned it now.
The 23-year-old Queensland State of Origin representative recorded 290 metres on 27 runs, four offloads, seven tackle breaks, one linebreak and 27 tackles in 69 minutes.
Both teams have named unchanged line-ups.
Last meeting: Round 14 2018 - Titans 16 Rabbitohs 18
Ryan James scored a double and both teams went scoreless in the last 18 minutes to play out a thrilling match. It was a game to forget for Gold Coast's Keegan Hipgrave, he was sin-binned twice and made three errors.
Who to watch: Hooker Damien Cook didn't play against the Titans during his breakout 2018 season as arguably the NRL's most dangerous runner from dummy-half. Cook's damaging running game could catch Gold Coast off guard. If he's in your fantasy team, it's a solid option to make him your captain this week.
The Titans are desperate for some direction from their halves and a lot of the hope this week lies with AJ Brimson. The 20-year-old made a stunning impact in 2018 during his debut NRL season while playing fullback, but had been relegated to start this season on the bench at the expense of Michael Gordon. That changed last minute with Taylor unable to play round one, and now in the halves can Brimson help his team by showing the class that got him nominated for the RLPA's rookie of the year?
The favourite: South Sydney is arguably the heaviest favourite in the NRL to win a round three match. The Rabbitohs have their ideal 17 players available (except for George Burgess serving a suspension) and they've won eight of the last 11 matches against the Titans.
My tip: The Rabbitohs would have to be extremely complacent for this result to be in any doubt. Bennett's been around long enough to sense and remove any complacency around the team. Will the Titans increase their urgency to win make this competitive, or show panic after a rough two opening matches and can Brennan get the tactics right to out-coach Bennett? Too many doubts are hanging over the Titans. Rabbitohs by 14.
1. Alex Johnston 18. Corey Allen 2. Dane Gagai 4. Braidon Burns 5. Campbell Graham 6. Cody Walker 7. Adam Reynolds 8. Tevita Tatola 9. Damien Cook 10. Thomas Burgess 11. John Sutton 12. Sam Burgess 13. Cameron Murray 15. Mark Nicholls 16. Ethan Lowe 17. Kyle Turner 20. Rhys Kennedy
1. Michael Gordon 2. Anthony Don 3. Tyrone Peachey 4. Brian Kelly 20. Dale Copley 6. Alexander Brimson 7. Ryley Jacks 8. Jarrod Wallace 18. Mitch Rein 12. Ryan James 11. Kevin Proctor 17. Bryce Cartwright 13. Jai Arrow 10. Shannon Boyd 14. Phillip Sami 16. Max King 19. Keegan Hipgrave
Referees: Matt Noyen, Chris Butler; Sideline Officials: Nick Beashel, Liam Kennedy; Video Referees: Jared Maxwell, Ben Galea;