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Cup stars get no guarantees

Tony Webeck, Chief Queensland Correspondent NRL.com Sat, Dec 14, 2013 - 7:50 AM

World Cup star Brad Takairangi knows he's not guaranteed a starting spot for the Titans next season. Copyright: NRL Photos

They've just returned from World Cup duty but both Brad Takairangi and Siuatonga Likiliki know there are no guarantees they'll be there for the Gold Coast Titans when they face the Sharks in Round 1 of the 2014 season.

Despite the speed of his arrival on the Gold Coast just days before the start of the season, Takairangi made a successful transition from the Sydney Roosters and played 18 games in the centres for the Titans in 2013.

Likiliki is in the unusual position of having played as many Tests for Tonga (three) as he has NRL games, despite making his debut for the Warriors back in 2009. He played two games for the Knights in 2011 and was named the NSW Cup Player of the Year in 2012 and is hoping to find more regular first grade football at his third club.

"I'm hoping too, I've had a long break," Likiliki said of his last NRL appearance two years ago. "I hope I can bring my best game over here and play some good footy for the Gold Coast.

"I don't mind playing second row, centre or wing but growing up I was just playing centre and feel comfortable playing centre."

The additions of Likiliki and Maurice Blair to the squad and the return of Jamal Idris from injury means that coach John Cartwright has a plethora of players capable of playing either in the centres or back row.

Although he was able to make one of those centre spots his own this year, Takairangi is prepared to head back into the forward pack if that's what Cartwright asks of him.

"It's a brand new season and they've got a few more centres so there's going to be a bit more competition which is good," said Takairangi, who played all three games for the Cook Islands in the World Cup.

"Last year there weren't too many centres and at times I felt I probably got a bit relaxed but with the two new centres coming in there's definitely going to be guys putting heat on each week. It's up for grabs and it will definitely bring the best out of all of us I reckon.

"I don't mind being versatile. If 'Carty' needs me to play in the forwards I can play in the forwards but I'm not too fussed about centre or forwards. 

"A few of us can cover a few positions and we're mixing around at training getting used to every position just in case we need it."

Although he admitted he was "shell shocked" at the speed of which his move from the Roosters to the Titans transpired in February, Takairangi said he harboured no ill feelings as he watched his former teammates do their lap of honour on grand final day.

"It was bittersweet I guess that they won it but I was real happy for them because I'm still mates with a lot of them," the 24-year-old said.

"We're building towards something special up here. [New assistant coach] Neil Henry has brought his own flavour to the coaching and the boys have jumped on board and it's been good.

"At the moment we're just getting the 'kays' in the legs and getting fit but some of the structures that we are training for now is what we were doing well at the end of last year so I think we're just going to build on that."

Auckland born and a product of the Warriors' impressive under-20s system, Likiliki admitted that he has got his eye on a Titans debut appearance at the inaugural Auckland Nines on February 15.

"I've been thinking about it, I'd love to play in the Nines," said Likiliki. "Just do what I can to do my part in the team and to help out. That would be a bonus if I could play the Nines."

But does it suit him?

"Yeah, I think I'd probably go good for five minutes," he said, laughing.