Bullocking Dave Taylor has been phenomenal for the Gold Coast Titans this season, whether that be in the centres or the back row, earning himself an Origin recall in the process. Credit: Col Whelan. Copyright: NRL Photos.
A half-season of two halves sees the Titans desperately trying to reverse their free-fall down the competition table.
Overview: If the Titans were a commodity on the stock market the shareholders would have been over the moon at the first quarter results yet have been left scratching their heads at the dramatic decline in the second quarter of season 2014.
If any team knows the highs and lows that life in the Telstra Premiership can deliver it's the Titans who shocked everyone – including the number-crunchers – to be the outright competition leaders after six rounds but six games later are sitting outside the top eight on the back of a four-game losing streak.
First-choice halves Albert Kelly
and Aidan Sezer played seven games together before Sezer's season was all but ended with a pectoral injury suffered in Round 10's loss to the Broncos and that goes some way to explaining an attack that is among the least effective in the competition.
The brilliance of Kelly
got them home in some narrow early season victories but a left leg injury has hindered his influence in recent weeks.
They've dropped the first of a run of three games at home; lose the next two and finals footy looks a long way away.
He hasn't been perfect but the Titans must somehow find a way to parlay Dave Taylor's terrific early season form into wins on the scoreboard. There was no greater example of what he is capable of when a first half hat-trick
gave Gold Coast a 16-14 lead at half-time against the Warriors in Round 11 yet failed to score a single point in the second half as the Warriors went on to win 24-16. The 'Coal Train', recently recalled to the Maroons squad after Corey Parker's injury, has 16 offloads and 23 tackle breaks in 12 games yet is one of his team's worst offenders when it comes to errors and penalties conceded. It's been a good start to the season for Taylor, but the Titans need it to be even better in the second half.
The performances of Paul Carter in his maiden NRL season have also been a shining light.
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The numbers caught up with the Titans after six weeks and there is some poor reading at both ends of the field. Defensively, no team has missed more tackles than the Titans in the first 13 weeks while at the attacking end they are dead last by a wide margin when it comes to line breaks and try assists. Coach John Cartwright has barely been able to field the same backline two weeks in succession due to injuries at various times to Sezer, Kelly, William Zillman, Brad Tighe
, Maurice Blair and Kevin Gordon which perhaps explains why they have managed to score more than 20 points just three times in 12 games. James Roberts gets his Titans debut in Round 14 but they need more than his spark to open the floodgates.
Greg Bird's controversial penalty goal on the siren
to defeat the Storm in Round 5 enabled the Titans to maintain winning momentum early in the year and added further to their bank of competition points. A month without any further deposits, however, has their finals aspirations hanging by a tenterhook.
Games against the Cowboys (away), Roosters (away), Sea Eagles (home), Warriors (away) and Bulldogs (home) in five of the last six weeks of the regular season adds further pressure to upcoming games. In a congested middle part of the ladder, the Titans may once again find themselves a win or two short of finals footy. We see them finishing
with around 24-26 points.