Titans coach John Cartwright says he can't wait for the ASADA investigation to be over. Credit: NRL Photos Copyright: NRL Photos
It's a Christmas wish Titans coach John Cartwright shares with all rugby league coaches, players, officials and fans: an end to the ASADA investigation into alleged use of banned peptides.
Two current Titans players, Luke Douglas and Albert Kelly, were members of the Cronulla squad that were subjected to the alleged 2011 supplements program at the Sharks and Cartwright is hopeful that they will enter the 2014 season with clear heads and unblemished records.
"I've spoken to both the boys and I'm like everyone else: we're not really sure how it's going to be dealt with so that being the case we've just got to get on with the job here of getting ready for the season starting," Cartwright said.
"Like everyone, we would love to see an end to it and know what's going to happen so you can start planning for your future.
"The players themselves would obviously have some concerns and it's not something you want the fans talking about going into a season. It should be about the footy and getting behind their teams and playing in big games."
With the return of Douglas to training on Monday the Titans squad is now only awaiting Kangaroos stars and club co-captains Greg Bird and Nate Myles to have the full complement back on deck and Cartwright says the majority of players are bettering the benchmarks they set 12 months ago.
"They've all worked really hard. Their comparative times and in the gym, to a man they're all ahead of where they were at this stage [last year]. Physically they're going to be more ready than ever," Cartwright said.
"It's been a bit of a funny off-season with so many of our players not available through World Cup and injury, but we've only got two to go now. I'm really comfortable with where they're at and really looking forward to the footy starting.
"We've had a very tough off-season, I don't think any player would say that it hasn't been tough, but we've got through it pretty well injury free and we're getting all the players back on deck."
The Titans were 10th for points conceded (518 at an average of 21.6 per game) and ninth for missed tackles in the NRL in 2013 so Cartwright and new assistant coach Neil Henry have been paying particular attention to the defensive end of the field.
A big part of their training has been under the tutelage of Jiu-Jitsu black belt professor Jason Roebig and even a recent masterclass from California-based world champion, Kron Gracie.
"Physically it's always about power but football-wise it's been about defence, doing a lot of work in the gym with our contact guy (Roebig) and on the field. A lot more focus has been on getting our defence right," Cartwright explained.
"It's a fantastic time to be a footballer: No one is playing second grade and they're all training as one team and in the course of the year that just doesn't happen with players going off to feeder clubs and that type of thing."