Titans forwards Luke Douglas, Matt White and Ben Ridge bring Jason Taumalolo to a halt. Copyright: Charles Knight/NRL Photos Credit: NRL Photos Copyright: NRL Photos
Nate Myles and Ryan James may both be racing the clock to be fit for Round 1 but Titans coach John Cartwright is confident he has the front row stocks to cover in their absence.
Myles underwent groin surgery upon his return from the World Cup and having missed the club's two trial games and the Auckland Nines is not expected to be used for Round 1 if there are any lingering doubts over his fitness.
Up against a Cowboys forward pack last weekend that had five World Cup representatives in its starting side, Titans big men Luke Bailey, Luke Douglas, Matthew White and Mark Ioane more than held their own up front.
Boom youngster Ryan James is likely to have a run in the Intrust Super Cup this weekend to finalise his pre-season preparations which gives Cartwright the luxury to hold back co-captain Myles until he is 100 per cent fit to play.
"We wouldn't play Nate if he wasn't right but one thing I do know is that you need depth in the front row so we're fortunate there," Cartwright said following his side's 28-12 loss to the Cowboys in Toowoomba.
"We were under the pump there in the second half for a good 10 to 15 minutes but pretty much on the back of those two (White and Ioane) we got back into the game. Mark powered over for a try and 'Whitey' was very strong so there's plenty of depth and pressure in that spot."
Despite an injury curse amongst the hookers that has sidelined Matt Srama, Beau Falloon and Sam Irwin at various stages of the pre-season, the emergence of Paul Carter as a genuine option at No.9 has added depth to that position also.
With a good turn of speed and a powerful physique, Carter made a number of impressive surges from dummy-half through the Cowboys defence and impressed both Cartwright and veteran back-rower Ashley Harrison with his input.
"He's going to be a good kid," Harrison said. "He's a goer and he'll get the job done for now. He's put his hand up for selection in Round 1 that's for sure.
"We've got Beau Falloon and Matty Srama to come back as well so we'll be fighting for spots and it's going to be healthy for us.
"We've got great depth in the forwards and we've strengthened in the backs as well, especially in the centre position so depth overall is an improvement for us this season and everyone will be fighting for a spot."
Since arriving at the club from the Bulldogs in the off-season, Carter has been eyed as a versatile bench option but impressive performances in all three pre-season hit-outs has him firming for a starting spot and an NRL debut against the Sharks.
"He was very strong. He's been strong through the trials and he was really hard to handle tonight," Cartwright said of the son of Panthers legend Steve Carter. "He covers a few spots there, he covers hooker and he covers back row so he's going to be a handy player for us.
"He's trimmed up a little bit because we've had him playing in the hooking role but he's still a very powerfully-built lad."