David Mead was terrific at the Auckland Nines but now has just 40 minutes to find a new centre to partner him on the Titans' right side. Copyright: www.photosport.co.nz
Titans winger David Mead will have only 40 minutes to get to know Maurice Blair's idiosyncrasies in live game situations as Gold Coast prepare to start the 2014 season with a completely new centre pairing.
New recruits Blair and Brad Tighe have been named in the centres for Saturday night's final trial against the Cowboys in Toowoomba with the Titans eyeing a shift to speed over size following the departure of Jamal Idris in the off-season.
With Mead, Tighe, Kevin Gordon and William Zillman in the outside backs, the Titans boast arguably the speediest combination in the game but Mead knows it will take more than speed to breach defensive lines.
Although he was only on the Gold Coast for two years, Idris formed a lethal right-side combination with Mead and the Papua New Guinea World Cup star understands he is starting from scratch with Melbourne recruit Blair.
"Jamal was obviously a very good player, a top-class centre, but we've got a lot of players who possess a lot of qualities that help a football team win. As long as we make use of those qualities and those players perform at their best we'll go a long way to winning games," Mead said.
"Whoever is going to be taking that spot is someone I'm going to have to work very hard with to start the year off and develop some combination and get to know how they play.
"I've played a bit with 'Taka' (Brad Takairangi) so I understand how he plays but with 'Bobby', he's obviously new and I'm sure the more we practice together the better our combination will get.
"Some centres like to flick pass and that type of stuff. I know Brad Takairangi likes to draw the winger and flick pass out there which is something I've got to be very aware of and expect at times. Other players won't be able to do that. Different players might skip out or go back inside so just go to watch how they play."
Titans coach John Cartwright is likely to give Blair, Tighe, Takairangi and Jamie Dowling equal game time against the Cowboys as he endeavours to settle on the best pairing to take into Round 1 against the Sharks.
"Brad Takairangi missed a fair bit of training with the World Cup and with Jamie Dowling there are four of them there fighting for two spots," Cartwright said.
"They'll all get equal game time. It's a position we've always historically been a little bit short but we've got four quality ones there."
Despite the encouraging form of Cowboys recruit Kalifa Faifai Loa in the pre-season, he won't get a further chance to impress against his old team on Saturday night, Cartwright reiterating the faith and confidence he has in incumbent wingers Mead and Gordon.
Towering prop Ryan James is also missing for the club's final trial due to a shoulder injury that he picked up in the trial win over the Warriors with Cartwright hinting he could be sent for a hit-out in the Intrust Super Cup next week in order to be ready for Round 1.
"He's not 100 per cent this week so he won't be playing," Cartwright explained. "It's a hard one. We don't want him going into a season carrying any sort of injury. You pick up enough niggles through the season so more precautionary than anything. He'll have a full week of training next week and we're pretty confident he'll be right for Round 1.
"As long as he comes through training next week and does full contact we'd consider playing him in a Queensland Cup game."
The Titans play the Cowboys at Clive Berghofer Oval, Toowoomba on Saturday with kick-off at 6.30pm.