After a spate of serious injuries Ben Ridge has earned a recall to the Titans starting team for the clash with Penrith. Credit: Renee McKay. Copyright: NRL Photos
Ben Ridge has been earmarked by Titans coaching staff as the long-term successor to Ashley Harrison's position at lock forward but first the 24-year-old must prove he can string consecutive good performances together.
Since overcoming a horrific broken leg suffered while captain of the Titans' under-20s team in 2009, Ridge has only twice played more than 10 games in succession in the top grade since making his debut late in the 2010 season.
Ridge started in 12 of 17 games for the Titans last season and gets his second chance in the run-on side on Saturday night against the Panthers at Cbus Super Stadium starting at lock.
It will be game number 52 for the hard-hitting back-rower who was a member of the 2007 Australian Schoolboys team that also included the likes of Kieran Foran, Kevin Proctor, Andrew McCullough and Ben Hunt, players who have all played more than 100 NRL games.
The stop-start nature of Ridge's career to date hasn't lessened the belief that coach John Cartwright has in his ability and he says that starting against the Panthers is the time for Ridge to secure himself a permanent position in the team.
"He had a horrendous broken leg; they weren't real sure whether he'd ever play again," Cartwright revealed.
"That can take a while to get over and since he's been back from that he's struggled to put any sort of momentum together in terms of consecutive games.
"I think he's had half a dozen back now and he's learning to handle the knocks and I still believe his best footy is still way in front of him.
"We've got some injuries in that position, we've got some players retiring next year and there's an opportunity for him there to stake a claim. If he can get a good run of football in that spot without any injuries I think we'll see the best of him."
A member of the Queensland Emerging Origin squad at the start of last year, Ridge missed a chunk of footy early in the year due to a pectoral injury and had his start to 2014 disrupted by a medial ligament injury in his knee.
They're setbacks that have the potential to rock a player's confidence but Cartwright is convinced that the NRL will soon learn what he is fully capable of.
"We'd all love them to be at their very best when they're coming out of 20s but that's not the case," said Cartwright, who will coach game No.184 against the Panthers.
"Depending on the type of guy it can take four or five years of in and out of first grade and he's probably close to having that now, 'Ridgey'.
"I have all the faith in the world in him, and all the coaches do, and that's why he's there and he's got an opportunity."
In his first run-on game for the season in the Titans' loss to the Warriors in Round 11, Ridge ran for 53 metres and made 35 tackles, many of which stung the big Kiwi forwards.
It's the type of impact Gold Coast co-captain Nate Myles believes he can have on a weekly basis if the self-confessed fan of a 'nana nap' finally hits his straps.
"He's probably a little bit too casual at the moment, 'Ridgey'. I'd like him to be a little bit more footy-nerdy if you know what I mean," Myles said.
"He's got so much in him, the way he goes about his footy. He's just a hard worker and I think once he learns how good he is football-wise I think he's going to excel again.
"To have him in the side [on Saturday night] will bring a lot; he was really cutting people in half a couple of weeks ago against the Warriors and hopefully he can bring that again.
"Ridgey as a person is going to develop into a great footy player and when he does it will be beneficial for us."